Zeitouni trial delayed after assault on defense lawyer


(JTA) — A French tribunal postponed the trial of two Jews accused of vehicular manslaughter after an attorney representing one of them was assaulted in court.

The assault on Regis Meliodon, the attorney for Claude Khayat, occurred on Thursday evening inside a men’s room of the Paris Palace of Justice, Le Figaro reported. The unidentified attacker was not apprehended and the judge postponed the trial’s opening session until Dec. 3.

Khayat and his friend, Eric Robic, are accused of hitting Lee Zeitouni, 25, with a rented SUV in 2011 in Tel Aviv and leaving her for dead before fleeing to their native France. The two were in Israel on vacation.

Robic admitted to driving the car during his interrogation by French police, according to the JSSnews.com news site.

The man who punched Khayat’s lawyer in the face reportedly asked him whether he was indeed representing Khayat. When Meliodon said he was, the man sent one blow to Meliodon’s jaw before leaving the scene, Le Figaro reported.

The Zeitouni affair sparked outrage in Israel because it coincided with a string of lethal hit-and-run accidents but also because France refused to extradite the defendants as per its policy of not delivering French nationals outside the European Union.

In addition, French justice authorities were criticized over the fact that it took more than three years to prosecute the accused even though their identities were known shortly after Zeitouni’s death.

Among the people attending the trial’s interrupted opening session were Zeitouni’s parents; the former president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, Richard Prasquier, and France’s former ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot.

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