Lawyers representing the children of Jewish deportees said they expected Mr Touvier, 78, to be tried by the assize court of the Yvelines department west of Paris before the end of this year. The accusation against him concerns involvement in the execution of seven Jews near Lyons in June 1944 in retaliation for the assassination of a senior official of the Vichy collaborationist government.
The Versailles appeals court put an end to a controversy over Mr Touvier, who was one of the chiefs of Lyons' pro-Nazi militia, after another court ruled last year that he should not face trial. That decision caused an uproar. Yesterday's decision in Versailles stemmed from an appeal lodged by the prosecution.
Although Jacques Tremolet de Villers, Mr Touvier's lawyer, said he would challenge the latest ruling, Charles Libman, the lawyer for the Association of Sons and Daughters of Deported Jews of France, said the trial would take place 'probably before the end of the year'.
Alain Levy, another lawyer for the families of victims, added: 'We can only rejoice at this decision. Even if Paul Touvier does appeal, it is now almost certain that he will be judged by an assize court in a few months.'
If Mr Touvier, who has cancer of the prostate, does face trial, it will be the second time French courts have judged someone for crimes against humanity. The charge came out of the Moscow declaration of 1943 by the war-time Allies warning Nazi officials that they would be pursued 'to the uttermost ends of the earth' for atrocities.
In France, it can only apply where participation in a deliberate policy of genocide is suspected. Mr Touvier will be the first Frenchman to face trial under this charge. The other trial was of Klaus Barbie, the Nazi 'Butcher of Lyons' and Mr Touvier's German superior. Barbie was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 and has since died in a Lyons prison.
Two other Frenchmen have been charged with crimes against humanity but have yet to come to trial. They are Rene Bousquet, the former Vichy police chief, and Maurice Papon, accused of involvement in the deportation of Jews from the Bordeaux region. Papon went on to become Paris police chief in the 1960s and President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's budget minister in the 1970s.Reuse content