French Court to Review Barbie Case

The French Supreme Court Thursday began examining Klaus Barbie’s appeal to have his war crimes conviction overturned.

A criminal court in Lyon sentenced Barbie to life imprisonment on July 4, 1987 on 17 counts of war crimes committed when he served as Gestapo chief in that city during World War II.

The appeal process is automatic under French law. No witnesses will be heard and the prisoner will not be brought to court. The court is expected to render a decision next fall.

Barbie, who earned the sobriquet “Butcher of Lyon,” was found guilty of deporting Jewish children to the Auschwitz death camp, arresting thousands of the city’s Jews and the arbitrary arrest and torture of countless other people.

Barbie’s attorneys are asking the high court to declare his trial “void” on procedural grounds. They are also invoking the legal argument of double jeopardy.

Barbie, who fled to South America after the war, was sentenced to death in absentia by French courts. The death sentence was nullified by the statute of limitations and the fact that France no longer has capital punishment.

Barbie’s lawyers contend that having been tried once for war crimes, he should not have been tried a second time.

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