PARIS (Jan. 31)
Official sources here said that France will make a formal request to the Bolivian government for the extradition of war criminal Klaus Barbie as soon “as materially possible.” The sources predicted, however, that the legal and administrative process might last 2-3 weeks.
Barbie, known as the “butcher of Lyon,” the French city where he was gestapo chief during World War II, was sentenced to death in absentia by French courts in 1952 and 1954 for his role in the deportations of thousands of French Jews to Nazi death camps and the murder of French resistance leader, Jean Moulin. He fled to Bolivia where he acquired citizenship under the name of Klaus Altmann.
MAY BE EXPELLED IN A FEW WEEKS
The West German government has already formally requested Barbie’s extradition. Le Monde quoted Bolivia’s Vice President, Jaime Paz Zamora as saying that Barbie-Altmann will be expelled or extradited to West Germany in a matter of weeks.
Barbie was arrested by the Bolivian authorities recently on charges of defrauding a State-owned company of $10,000 and remains in detention. The Bolivian Attorney General has ruled in favor of West Germany’s extradition request although there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.
Bonn has argued that extradition is in order because Barbie used a false name to acquire Bolivian nationality and committed his crimes before he fled to that country. The new regime in La Paz seems to agree and wants to be rid of him.
For many years the wanted war criminal enjoyed the protection of Bolivia’s far rightwing military government. He prospered in a lumber business, had homes in La Paz and Cochabamba and is suspected of having advised the “death squads” run by Bolivia’s military rulers. An extradition request by France in 1972 was rejected by the Bolivian Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Barbie’s lawyers have informed the courts that his family is prepared to make restitution and pay any other costs in exchange for his immediate release from prison. They claim that Barbie, 69, is in poor health.
Barbie was allowed to appear on local television last week. He denied he had murdered Moulin, claiming he only handed the resistance leader over the Vichy authorities and that Moulin was in good health at the time. “I learned of his death in an American magazine in 1957,” he said.
When France filed its first extradition request 10 years ago, Barbie claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity. Later he admitted to having been a Captain in the gestapo but “war is war and I was a soldier who had to defend his country.”