PARIS (Sep. 10)
The trial of Klaus Barbie, supposed to have opened last spring and then rescheduled for November, has been postponed to early next year. The prosecution says a new investigation is required because some documents recently found in the State archives differ from documents supplied by Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld.
Barbie’s lawyer, Jacques Verges, who has promised a fierce fight in behalf of his client, said there were discrepancies between the list of names of Jewish deportees in the Klarsfeld documents and those in the archives. The key list is that of Jews deported on August II, 1944 aboard the last “death train” to leave Lyon.
FACES CHARGES ON THREE COUNTS
Barbie, whose activities as gestapo chief in Lyon during World War II earned him the sobriquet “Butcher of Lyon,” faces charges on three counts of “crimes against humanity.” These include deportation of 650 Jews on August II, 1944; the arrest and deportation of 86 members of the Lyon Committee of French Jews on February 9, 1943; and the April 6, 1944 arrest and deportation of two Jewish teachers and 52 children who were hidden by their parents in a Jewish orphanage in Izieu.
In the latter case, Barbie is charged with “kidnapping minors followed by death,” illegal detention and complicity in murder.
The investigating magistrate, Christian Riss, has dismissed charges which fall under the statute of limitations. Thus, war crimes cannot be prosecuted 20 years after the events. Crimes against humanity are not covered by the statute of limitations.
The newly discovered documents will have to be submitted to all parties to the case, including hundreds of groups and associations which have filed civil actions against Barbie.
The former SS officer, now 72, has been in custody since early 1983. He escaped from Europe shortly after the war when he was sentenced to death in absentia by a French court. He found haven in Bolivia where he prospered under the alias, Klaus Altmann.
He was expelled in 1983, after Bolivia’s ruling rightwing military junta was overthrown, and handed over to French authorities. He has since been incarcerated in the same Lyon prison where his victims were confined, interrogated and tortured by the gestapo while they awaited deportation, usually to Auschwitz.
TRIAL EXPECTED TO HAVE POLITICAL REPERCUSSIONS
His victims were not only Jews but members of the French resistance. Barbie is held responsible for the murder of Jean Moulin, a resistance leader. His pending trial is expected to have political repercussions.
It probably will coincide with France’s parliamentary elections to be held next spring or early summer.
Barbie is being held in isolation. His jailers say he spends his time reading. He and his lawyers have protested vigorously against a government plan to install him in a bullet-proof glass box during the trial. His gestapo cohort, Adolf Eichmann, was similarly protected during his trial in Jerusalem in 1961. Barbie’s lawyer has told Justice Minister Robert Badinter, “We will never agree to a circus atmosphere.”