A French court has imposed a pre-trial travel ban on former French Cabinet minister Maurice Papon, who is alleged to have ordered the deportation of more than a thousand Jews while an official in France’s World War II Vichy regime.
A court in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, where the trial is due to start Oct. 6, ordered Papon, 86, to hand over his passport and keep the authorities informed of his whereabouts.
But days after the ruling was issued, Papon, who will be tried for crimes against humanity, had not yet delivered his passport to justice officials.
The court order had been requested by the state prosecutor and by Arno Klarsfeld, who along with his father, famed Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, is one of several lawyers representing 36 plaintiffs in the case.
Arno Klarsfeld applauded the ruling.
“For a long time, he thought the case would be thrown out, but nothing worked for him,” he said.
“This is a minimal measure, but it seems normal that Maurice Papon, who is accused of deporting Jewish children, be prevented from fleeing legally.”
The court ruling came as a blow to Papon, who has enjoyed freedom of movement since legal proceedings were first filed against him 15 years ago.
One of Papon’s lawyers, Marcel Rouxel, said he feared his client is being made a scapegoat for the wartime Vichy regime’s collaboration with the Nazi occupiers.
“I fear that the prosecutors and, apparently, the powers that be, want to put Vichy in the dock, and that Papon is to be tried as the sole living incarnation of that era,” Rouxel said.
Legal proceedings against Papon, which were first undertaken in 1981, were delayed by successive French governments in the hope that Papon would die before a trial took place that would recall an era many French people would rather forget.
As a result of a ruling by France’s Supreme Court in January, Papon must now face trial for ordering the deportation of 1,560 Jews, 223 of them children, to Nazi death camps when he was secretary- general of the Bordeaux region’s government during World War II.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Papon knew that “the arrest and deportation of Jews to the east would inevitably lead them to death,” adding that his office always “sought to ensure maximum efficiency in carrying out anti-Jewish measures.”
The court also said Papon often displayed unwarranted zeal by providing Nazi authorities with details about French Jews before he was asked for the information.
The charges against Papon include being an accomplice to kidnapping and murder, carrying out arbitrary arrests and perpetrating inhuman acts.
Papon has denied the charges against him, saying that he used his position in the Resistance to save Jews. Papon reportedly joined the Resistance movement near the end of 1943.
After the liberation, Papon went on to an illustrious postwar career, serving as police chief of Paris between 1958 and 1967, then as budget minister in the French Cabinet during the 1970s.
His wartime activities became known after a 1981 newspaper article detailed his past.
Papon will be the second and, in all likelihood, the last Frenchman to face trial for crimes against humanity.
A lower-ranking collaborationist, Lyon militia chief Paul Touvier, was jailed for life in 1994. He died in prison in July at 81.
Rene Bousquet, Vichy’s national police chief and Papon’s superior, was killed by a deranged gunman in 1993 on the eve of his war-crimes trial.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.