Papon Set for Freedom; Outcry over Release of French War Criminal, 92, Who Sent Jews to Death

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD HOLLIDAY

A FRENCH court today caused international outrage when it ordered the release from prison of a notorious war criminal who sent nearly 1,700 Jews to Nazi death camps.

The appeals court in Paris agreed to the release of Maurice Papon, 92, who has served three years of a 10-year sentence for complicity in crimes against humanity, after lawyers pleaded for his freedom on health grounds. They expected he would be "freed by the end of the day".

Papon, convicted in 1998 after a six-month trial, was the Vichy government's police chief in the Bordeaux prefecture under the Nazi occupation during the Second World War and had arrested and signed the deportation orders for 1,690 French Jews, most of whom died at Auschwitz.

In London, Lord Janner, former war crimes investigator and secretary of the Parliamentary War Crimes Group, said: "It is appalling and disgraceful that they have released this monster, who was personally complicit in mass murder."

He added: "He and his Nazi colleagues showed no mercy to their victims because of their age or health, and he should have spent the rest of his life in jail. French justice is today guilty of a shocking and tragic miscarriage."

After the war, Papon became the Paris police chief and then a French finance minister in the Seventies. The highest-ranking French official to be charged over collaboration with the Nazis, he was first arrested for crimes against humanity in 1983.

Due to a series of appeals and legal manoeuvring, it was 1997 before his trial began. …