Barbie Appears in Court, Refuses To Answer Questions
LYON, France (AP) _ Klaus Barbie was forced to attend court Friday in his trial for crimes against humanity, and a 78-year-old woman, a former French Resistance fighter, confronted him and cried out, ″Yes, oh, it’s him, it’s him 3/8″
″Eyes like that 3/8 You can’t forget that look 3/8 Even when I was almost unconscious I saw his cruel eyes 3/8,″ shouted Julie Franceschini.
Barbie stared back expressionless and responded, ″I have nothing to say.″
The former Lyon Gestapo chief refused again to answer questions about the charges against him.
Barbie has declined to attend the trial voluntarily since May 13, two days after it opened, contending that his 1983 expulsion from Bolivia was illegal.
″I think this is the last chance you will have to say something,″ prosecutor Pierre Truche said to Barbie, who was brought in manacles by uniformed guards to the glass-protected defendant’s box.
When historians read the record of Barbie’s trial in decades to come, Truche said, ″The question everyone will ask will be, ’Didn’t he have anything to say?‴
″I cannot answer your question,″ Barbie responded. ″I am juridically absent. I am the victim of a kidnapping.″
″I pity that you continue to live a fiction, and you know it,″ Truche replied.
Friday’s session was the second time he was forced to attend - without a physical struggle - to be confronted with witnesses who had not identified him in person during the pretrial investigation.
No more such witnesses are expected, so Barbie may never again appear in public, unless he changes his mind before his trial ends in early July. If he is convicted of crimes against humanity, the sentence would be life in prison. France has abolished the death penalty.
Despite Barbie’s refusal to answer, lawyers for his alleged victims kept posing questions and twice he slipped and responded - first when asked if he attended classes given by Nazi Adolph Eichmann dealing with the ″Jewish question.″
″I never knew Eichmann, I never met him,″ Barbie responded, speaking German translated into French for the court by an interpreter.
Eichmann was hanged by Israel in 1962 as a war criminal.
Another lawyer asked about Barbie’s connections with Bolivian strongman Hugo Banzer, who led a military government in the 1970s, reportedly with Barbie’s support.
The defendant replied, ″I had no particular connection.″
Barbie was in court 70 minutes, mainly to be identified by Mrs. Franceschini and by 77-year-old Andre Courvoisier, another former Resistance fighter. Both said they were brutally interrogated by him and deported to concentration camps at his orders.
Barbie smiled and half-chuckled when Courvoisier took a step toward him at the front of the courtroom, pointed and said, ″Mr. Barbie, you don’t recognize me? I recognize you.″
Barbie shook his head and laughed quietly.
″His mocking laugh is the same,″ Courvoisier said. ″His eyes are still the same, still a jackal. That man there, that’s him. That man sent so many young people to concentration camps.″
Asked if he would respond, Barbie said, ″No. Absolutely.″
Just before Barbie’s arrival, security was tightened even further in the specially built courtroom. About three dozen police lined the walls watching spectators.
As usual, those in the audience had to pass metal detectors and submit their bags for searches before entering.
Before Barbie was brought to the court, five witnesses completed the testimony about the Aug. 11, 1944, deportation convoy, the basis for one of the charges against Barbie. None of the five was sure Barbie was present that day, although earlier witnesses reported seeing him.
At least 600 people from that convoy, which left barely three weeks before Lyon was liberated from German occupation, are thought to have died in Nazi camps.
Barbie headed the Gestapo in Lyon from 1942 to 1944. After the war, he worked as an agent for U.S. Army intelligence, which later helped him escape to South America under the false name Klaus Altmann.
He was unmasked in 1972, but Bolivia was then under control of military officers reportedly linked to Barbie. Bolivian courts refused to extradite him. After a change in government, he was expelled in 1983, an action Barbie contends was illegal.