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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Nazi Gets Early Release

PARIS -- French Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon, 92, left jail Wednesday after an appeals court ruled he was too ill to serve the rest of his sentence for helping deport Jews to concentration camps.

Papon was sentenced in 1998 to 10 years in prison for complicity in crimes against humanity because of his role in organizing the transport of 1,560 Jews to a Paris transit camp on the way to Auschwitz during World War II.

Walking steadily, he emerged from a small door at Paris's Sante prison to jeers from a waiting crowd, got into a car and was driven away. Stunned by the court's unexpected decision, Jewish and anti-racist groups protested against the early release. Papon served only three years of his sentence, which began in 1999.

Lawyer Jean-Marc Varaut said before his release that Papon himself was surprised by the court's ruling. "He didn't believe it. He didn't think the magistrates had that much independence," he told journalists.

The appeals court ignored the public prosecutor's request to keep Papon in prison because releasing him could cause public unrest. It said the medical evidence his lawyers had presented had shown he was too ill to stay in jail.

But groups representing Jewish victims of Nazism were outraged. "I've just heard this sad news and I'm stunned," said Michel Slitinsky, spokesman for the civil parties at Papon's original trial.

Justice Minister Dominique Perben reminded journalists that the government had opposed the release.