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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 03:10 GMT
Anti-abortion murder trial opens

By Emma Simpson
BBC New York correspondent

In the United States, the trial has begun of an anti-abortion activist accused of murdering a doctor.

James Kopp is escorted into court
Kopp was on the FBI's most wanted list
James Kopp was the subject of an international manhunt after he allegedly shot an obstetrician four years ago who provided abortions to his patients in Buffalo, New York.

He was later arrested in France and now faces up to life in prison.

Mr Kopp is pleading not guilty to all the charges.

This will be a highly emotive trial with jury selection alone expected to take several weeks.

Mr Kopp is a well known abortion protester with a record of civil disobedience at abortion clinics across America.

His alleged victim, Dr Barnett Slepian, had long been the target of anti-abortion protests.

He was killed by a single shot from a high powered rifle while in his kitchen with his family cooking soup.

Abortion debate

Mr Kopp went on the run shortly afterwards, ending up on the FBI's ten-most-wanted list.

In a recent interview with a local newspaper, he admitted shooting Dr Slepian, but insisted that he intended only to wound him so he would be unable to perform any more abortions.

Four demonstrators gathered to show their support for Kopp
Abortion arouses strong emotions in the US

In the late 1990s, there was a spate of murders and attempted killings of doctors who practised abortion in the United States.

The violence seems to have abated.

Mr Kopp's defence team is expected to fight the charges on the grounds of justifiable homicide in the hope of turning this trial into a debate on abortion.


SEE ALSO:
Anti-abortionist sent for US trial
05 Jun 02 |  Americas
US abortion doctor shot dead
25 Oct 98 |  Americas



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