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French Judge Rejects Appeal of Nazi-Wartime Collaborator

A French judge rejected Wednesday yet another appeal to free Nazi wartime collaborator Maurice Papon. Papon's lawyers plan to appeal the decision, which comes on the eve of an expected ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision by a penal judge in Paris was a blow for the lawyers of 91-year-old Maurice Papon, but hardly the first time their case has been rejected. Previous rulings have also struck down demands to grant Papon an early release from his Paris prison. French President Jacques Chirac has also refused to offer Papon a presidential pardon.

A ranking official in France's World War II-era Vichy government, Papon is serving a 10-year sentence for his role in helping deport more than 1,500 Jews from the city of Bordeaux to Nazi concentration camps, where many died. At the time, Papon was in charge of the police in Bordeaux.

In a joint statement, Papon's lawyers said they would appeal the latest ruling. The lawyers had relied on recent changes in France's penal code to argue Papon should be freed, because of his deteriorating health.

But prison authorities say Papon's various ailments are not so serious.

Michel Slitinski, spokesman for the plaintiffs in the trial against Papon, hailed the latest decision to keep the former Vichy official in prison. "Speaking by telephone from his home in Bordeaux, Mr. Slitinski described the court's decision as a wise one. Mr. Slitinski, who is 77 years old and Jewish, was not deported during World War II. But he says his parents and many friends died in Nazi concentration camps," Mr. Slitinski said.

On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule on whether France violated certain points of law regarding Papon's trial. Among other things, the court will decide whether Papon was deprived of his right to have his conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal.