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1998: Papon guilty of war crimes

Former French cabinet minister Maurice Papon has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for his part in deporting Jews from France during World War II.

The prosecution had asked for a 20-year sentence for Papon who helped send more than 1,600 Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps.

Papon was a senior police official in the Vichy regime, a puppet government set up by the Nazis after France's surrender.

During the trial his lawyers argued he was only obeying orders and did his best to protect those selected for deportation.

Papon, whose health is frail, showed little reaction as the verdict was announced.

'Historic'

He arrived in the courtroom shortly before 0700 GMT accompanied by two doctors, who carried emergency medical equipment.

Lawyers for relatives of the victims said the verdict was "historic".

"An important page in our national history has been turned," said Alain Jacobovich, one of the lawyers.

Papon is the most senior official of the Vichy regime to stand trial for crimes against humanity - it has taken 16 years for the case against him to reach court.

His trial re-opened old wounds about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War which resulted in approximately 75,000 French Jews being deported to death camps.

Papon's lawyers have announced they will appeal - a process which could take as long as two years.

During that time he will remain free.

In Context
Maurice Papon's appeal was rejected when he refused to spend the night before the hearing in jail, as French law required.

He fled to Switzerland but was expelled and returned to France to serve his sentence.

His application for a pardon on health grounds was refused by French President Jacque Chirac in March 2000.

In July 2002 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled France wrongly denied Papon the right to appeal against his conviction.

He was awarded FF429,192 (18,000) in legal costs, but no damages.

The following September France's Court of Appeal freed Papon from prison after accepting two medical reports which said he was virtually incapacitated.


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