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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Outrage as French collaborator freed
Maurice Papon leaving La Sante prison in Paris
Activists believe Papon should have stayed behind bars
The decision to free French wartime Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon has angered the relatives of those who died and others who fought to bring him to justice.


My father, mother and uncle were killed at Auschwitz because of people like Papon, who now have the right to rest in their old age

Colette Guttman
French parliamentarian and anti-Nazi campaigner Julien Dray said the memory of all the victims of Nazism had been "insulted" by the decision.

Human rights activists and Israeli officials have also expressed dismay.

An appeals court ordered the release of Papon, 92, on health grounds.

He was jailed in 1999 for complicity in crimes against humanity involving the deportation of more than 1,600 Jews.

'Medical alibi'

The appeals court accepted two medical reports which concluded that the former Vichy official - whose career flourished after the war - was virtually incapacitated and should be set free.

Maurice Papon in around 1958
Maurice Papon became Paris police chief in 1958
"I can't believe this is happening," said Colette Guttman, as she watched Papon leave La Sante prison.

"My father, my mother and my uncle were killed at Auschwitz because of people like Papon, who now have the right to rest in their old age."

Gerard Boulanger, a lawyer who filed the first suit against Papon in 1981, said he had got free on a "medical alibi".

There have also been angry reactions from Israel.

Government spokesman Avi Pazner - a former ambassador to France - said he was personally "stunned and outraged" by the release.

"It's a difficult decision for us Israelis to accept given the abominable crimes of which Papon was convicted," Israeli President Moshe Katzav said in a statement.

Landmark trial

Papon was convicted of helping to send more than 1,600 Jews to death camps between 1942 and 1944, when he was a senior police official in the wartime French government.

Justice Minister Dominique Perben
Perben was among those who condemned the release
He was the highest-ranking French official to be sentenced for helping the Nazis, and his trial almost five years ago reopened painful memories about collaboration in occupied France during World War II.

French Justice Minister Dominique Perben said Papon should have stayed in jail "taking into account the seriousness of the charges against him".

He began a 10-year sentence in 1999.

Lawyers had repeatedly asked that Papon be released because of his age and ill-health.

Jewish groups opposed his release because they said he showed no remorse for his actions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"He has never expressed regret for what he did in wartime France"
See also:

04 Sep 02 | Europe
25 Jul 02 | Europe
19 Jul 02 | Europe
07 Mar 00 | Europe
23 Oct 99 | Europe
18 Sep 02 | Europe
02 Apr 98 | Despatches
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