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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 13:55 GMT
French court backs Papon release
Maurice Papon leaving prison
Papon was released last September
France's highest appeal court has rejected a request by the country's Justice Ministry to send Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon back to jail.

Public emotion is not a criterion

Louis di Guardia
State prosecutor
Papon, 92, was released under a new law last September on the grounds of ill health.

The original decision caused a public outcry, leading the government to launch proceedings to have him returned to jail.

Papon had served three years of a 10-year sentence for helping to send more than 1,500 French Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II.

President Jacques Chirac refused to pardon him three times.

'Cynical as ever'

There was incredulity at Papon's release in France, with commentators pointing out in the media that his original sentence provided for death in confinement, in view of his advanced age.

Maurice Papon as budget minister in 1980
Papon served in the French cabinet at the end of the 1970s
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the war criminal's conditions of confinement were not grounds for compassion.

The French Justice Ministry appealed against his release on the grounds that he was a threat to public order.

However, state prosecutor Louis Di Guardia told the court on Wednesday that the legal grounds for his return to jail were tenuous.

"Public emotion is not a criterion," he told the hearing.

There have been suggestions that Papon's release had been motivated by his previous high rank in the French establishment.

Papon served as a chief of police under President Charles de Gaulle and went on to take a place in the French cabinet in 1978.

See also:

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