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France: Papon Suffers Chest Pains

October 9, 1997

BORDEAUX, France (AP) _ Maurice Papon, the former Cabinet minister charged with sending French Jews to Nazi death camps, suffered chest pains Thursday as the court was considering whether to hold him in a hospital or in prison during his trial.

A court-appointed panel of doctors examined Papon on Thursday and recommended that the 87-year-old defendant, who underwent triple bypass surgery last year, be held in a hospital cardiology unit.

Presiding Judge Jean-Louis Castagnede said a decision would be announced Friday. Papon told the court Wednesday he lacked the physical and mental stamina to remain jailed during the proceedings, which are expected to last into December.

Papon, a former Bordeaux police supervisor, is charged with signing the arrest orders and preparing the convoys that sent 1,690 Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. He is the most senior French official in the collaborationist Vichy regime to stand trial for his role in the persecution and deportation of Jews.

Papon suffered what his lawyer, Jean-Marc Varaut, called a minor attack of angina Thursday minutes after judges ordered a break following a three-hour court session.

He returned to the courtroom after a doctor administered Trinitine, a spray used to relieve angina symptoms, and seemed fine.

Earlier, state prosecutor Henri Desclaux read the conclusions of the court-appointed medical team that had examined Papon.

While detention is not incompatible with Papon’s state of health, ``given his heart conditions, the risks would be reduced if he were placed under surveillance in a cardiology unit,″ Desclaux told the court, reading the report by two doctors.

Minutes before he suffered the chest pains, Papon had refused to acknowledge remorse for the suffering of Bordeaux’s Jews.

Varaut, arguing that the massive coverage of the proceedings was biased and jeopardized Papon’s chances for a fair trial, said France 2 television had censored an interview with Papon to remove his expression of ``deep pain over Jewish suffering.″

When civil party lawyer Gerard Welzer asked Papon to tell the court what was allegedly cut out of the interview, Papon refused.

``Go rummage through the wastebaskets at France 2, which refused to broadcast it,″ he said, rising from his seat behind bulletproof glass.

In the 16 years since evidence surfaced showing his active role in deporting Jews, Papon, a former budget minister under conservative President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, has repeatedly denied the charges and refused to apologize.

Earlier Thursday, Varault demanded the court halt the trial because of what he said was slanted media coverage. He also said Papon could not defend himself properly because most of the witnesses, including his superiors, were dead. The court was to rule on that request next week.

If the trial does continue, Varaut said he and Papon should be allowed to stay together in a peaceful Bordeaux suburb for the duration of the proceedings.

Lawyers representing the families of several hundred victims, Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups who have waited 16 years for the trial oppose Papon’s request.

``I can’t stand the idea of Papon going to a five-star hotel every night after the hearings,″ said Therese Stopnicki, who escaped the police roundup that captured her young sisters.

``It’s his way of thumbing his nose at us, of literally going free, after all we’ve gone through to bring him to trial,″ she said.

After the war, Papon went on to a prominent career in government and enjoyed protection at the highest levels, even after a newspaper revealed his wartime record in 1981. In 1994, then-President Francois Mitterrand admitted he had acted to delay proceedings against Papon.

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