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Court Refuses To Try U.S. Airman

October 27, 2000

BONNEVILLE, France (AP) _ A French court refused Friday to try a U.S. airman involved in a traffic accident in France while returning from a mission in Italy, saying the case should be handled by the U.S. military.

Schwan Lee Owens, 28, stationed in Ramstein, Germany, struck a motorcycle with his rented car in May 1999, in Cluses, prosecutor Bruno Scharve said.

Scharve had asked that Owens be tried in this town in eastern France on charges of causing involuntary injuries to two people on the motorcycle and crossing the dividing line on the road.

But the court said the case was outside its domain and should be tried by the U.S. military.

Owens, whose rank and hometown were not made public, was not at the hearing. U.S. Air Force observers attended.

Documents available to the court showed that Owens went to Italy to install a NATO communications system. The mission was classified ``top secret,″ according to the court.

Owens, accompanied by another military man, got into the accident after making a U-turn on a highway access road, the prosecutor said.

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