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Lawyers Ask That Barbie Be Forced to Attend Trial

May 15, 1987

LYON, France (AP) _ Lawyers for alleged victims of Klaus Barbie urged in vain Friday that he be brought to court by force. But the Nazi who became known as the ″Butcher of Lyon″ says he was kidnapped from Bolivia and refuses to attend his war crimes trial.

″We should not let the initiative of whether or not Barbie is in the defendant’s box be left to Barbie,″ said Charles Kormann, who represents the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism.

A defendant may refuse to attend his trial under French law, but the presiding judge can force him to be present.

Barbie, who earned his nickname as Lyon’s Gestapo chief in 1942-1944, declared Wednesday that he would no longer attend court sessions. He claimed he was kidnapped in 1983 from Bolivia, where he lived for more than 30 years, and brought to France illegally.

The Bolivian government says the expulsion was legal.

Demands for Barbie’s appearance were voiced just before the presiding judge, Andre Cerdini, began reading the evidence prepared by the nvestigating magistrate and Barbie’s responses to interrogation.

A defendant attending his own trial would be questioned about the evidence in open court.

Victims are allowed to participate in French criminal cases as civil parties. About 150 individuals and organizations are represented at the Barbie trial by 43 lawyers.

Among major questions to be decided is whether Barbie was directly responsible for the Gestapo unit in charge of rounding up Jews in Lyon for deportation to Nazi death camps.

Judge Cerdini said Barbie ″made a certain number of declarations, but I must say these declarations were not always the same.″

Several lawyers for civil parties asked him to invoke the law requiring Barbie’s presence, which has not been used for years. Judicial officials said it was employed last at the treason trial of Pierre Laval, premier of the collaborationist Vichy government in World War II.

″This trial must be a trial of truth, the whole truth,″ Kormann stated, which he said includes ″the truth of confrontation, the exchange of looks, the truth of Barbie confronted by his victims.″

″There is a truth that is different from a simple reading of documents,″ he said. ″There is an emotional truth, a human truth, to see in that look if the torturer manages to maintain his attitude of cynicism.″

Other lawyers, including prosecutor Pierre Truche, opposed forcing Barbie to appear.

Gerard Welzer, who represents families of eight people sent to Auschwitz, said he understood the feelings of those who want the defendant in the box, but added: ″If Barbie is brought in by force, that could be seen as another victory for Barbie.″

Truche, the prosecutor, said: ″The presence of Barbie to do what? You can make him come, but you cannot make him speak. I do not want to give him the pleasure of making himself a martyr.″

Defense lawyer Jacques Verges observed with a smile and yawned at one point in the debate.

Standing in front of the defendant’s empty chair, he told the court forcing his client to appear would violate French legal tradition. ″It’s a question of dignity, less for the accused than for you,″ he said.

Charges against Barbie involve three main elements:

-Arrest of 86 Jews on Feb. 9, 1943, at the Lyon headquarters of the General Union of the Israelites of France. All but three died at Auschwitz.

-A roundup of Jews at a children’s home in Izieu, east of Lyon. Of the 44 children and seven adults taken, only one person survived.

-The last prisoner train to leave Lyon, carrying 600 people. The deaths of at least 106 have been verified.

Cerdini quoted Barbie as saying at one point in the investigation: ″I had nothing to do with the deportation of Jews to Germany,″ but at another: ″I had authority over the Jewish question.″

On some occasions he said his superiors had direct control of the Gestapo subsection dealing with Jews, and Cerdini cited other conficting responses.

″People who worked with Barbie seem to confirm that Barbie had authority over this Subsection B,″ the judge said.

He had the clerk read three documents translated from German into French concerning the roundup at the Jewish organization headquarters.

Barbie sometimes confirmed his signature and, at others, said he was not certain, Cardini told the court.

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