Papon attacks 'political trial'

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The Independent Online
MAURICE PAPON, the Vichy official charged with crimes against humanity, made a rambling and self-pitying final statement to his trial yesterday in which he accused the prosecution of killing his wife, writes John Lichfield.

Mr Papon, 87, in a 40-minute statement before the jury retired to consider a verdict, said the prosecution had portrayed him as a "cold monster" during his six-month trial.

This was false. The accusation that he had been a willing and zealous enforcer of the deportation of Jews from the Bordeaux area in 1942-44 struck him to "the centre of my heart". He was the victim of a "political trial".

Nonetheless, Mr Papon showed little remorse for the almost 1,600 Jews he helped to deport, ultimately to Auschwitz and their deaths. He dwelt on his own suffering and that of "that great lady", his wife, who died last week. The prosecution's decision to seek a 20 year term had been the coup de grace which had killed her, he said.

In an extraordinary conclusion, bordering on racism, he compared the Jews deported on the basis of his written orders to illegal African immigrants to France sent home on official charter planes. If he was convicted, he said, any French bureaucrat chartering such planes might be prosecuted for crimes against humanity if the immigrants were later "decimated".

The jury, consisting of nine members of the public and the three trial judges, is expected to deliver its verdict in the early hours of today.