A New Suspension for the Papon Trial

bistro Le Soleil
Bistro Le Soleil blasted by sun in the rue de Clichy.

Stunning 'Find' by Civil Lawyer

Paris:- Saturday, 31. January 1998:- Late in Wednesday's session of the trial of Maurice Papon, Arno Klarsfeld, a lawyer for several groups of civil plaintiffs, dropped a bomb.

Using a press release, he announced that a family relationship existed between the President of the court, Jean-Louis Castagnède, and a family composed of deported victims - victims of the crimes for which Maurice Papon is accused.

Arno Klarsfeld and his father, Serge Klarsfeld, are both lawyers representing families of victims. They claim that it was impossible for President Castagnède to have been unaware of this relationship - to an aunt - because the names of all known victims were contained in court papers before the trail began.

President Castagnède says the existence of this relationship is a total surprise to him - his father died when he was an enfant and he never had contact with that side of his family; and he set out to verify the claim.

Serge Klarsfeld is president of the Association of the Sons and Daughters of the Deportees, and he believes the relationship, although cold, was well known to the court's president. He thinks President Castagnède is on the side of the defense.

The other civil lawyers in the case expressed their confidence with President Castagnède and characterized the move by the Klarsfelds as 'destabilizing.'

Arno Klarsfeld has asked the Appeals Court in Bordeaux to retire President Castagnède from the case, but it is not likely it will order this unless the family relationship turns out to be close.

Legal experts said that if President Castagnède was taken at Bob's, the hairdresser off the case it would have to start from zero again, as no other judge knows the 'dossier d'instruction.' For this reason, they doubted that he would be required to withdraw.

If you don't know what it is, you're at Bob's, the hairdresser.

Everybody except Maurice Papon's defense lawyer, Mr. Vuillemin, is either angry or outraged. Le Parisien's headline says the trial has turned towards confusion, and Libération summed it up on its front page on Friday with, "Le Mauvais Proces Fait Au Proces Papon."

Due to the defendant's age, President Castagnède decided at the beginning to run the trail on half-day sessions. Then there were the 26 days accorded to the defendant for illness. There are 28 lawyers representing the civil parties, and three for the defense.

More than 150 witnesses have been heard - some as long as three months ago; certain unforgettable points have been made, but how long will it be before all is before the court?

On Thursday, the Bordeaux Appeals Court gave President Castagnède the green light to continue the trial.

Web Sites With Contents About the Papon Trial:

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

The National Assembly Debates the 35-hour Week

The number one worry of French residents is unemployment. Most people do not see the government's plans to officially cut the statutory work-week to 35 hours as a way to increasing employment.

All the same the government forged ahead early in the week and the grand debate about the proposed law was launched in the Assembly National.

This debate is led by Martine Aubry for the government. She is a 47 year old graduate of France's prestigious Administrative University - the ENA - a former General Director of the industrial giant, Pechiney, the first assistant mayor of Lille and present Minister of Employment as well as Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's second in command.

Martine Aubry is also Socialist deputy in the Assembly National. Throughout the week Le Parisien has been devoting a lot of pages to this issue - and it seems as if the weakest point to it is, nobody thinks it can be done.

Elsewhere I have read the opinions of economists who are either for it or against it; and the arguments seem about even. As one reader recently pointed out, debates are a favorite pastime in France and go on until it comes down to the nut, then a compromise deal is made, and life goes on.

But we are in a situation where 'life is not going on' for a lot of people - several millions - and many of them would rather hear debates about how to increase the number of new jobs rather than shortening the hours of existing ones.

One time when I was an union member, the union's leaders called this 'spreading the misery' because it was a management proposal. The idea was for everybody to work and be paid for seven hours; so that three shifts could be maintained.

On a 'last hired - first fired' basis, the union's idea of sticking to the eight-hour shift would have forced management to lay off the entire third shift, which was composed almost entirely of the 'last-hired.'

There was a minor skirmish with the union forcing a 'slow-down' until the management announced a 'lock-out' unless there was a 'speed-up' and there wasn't, so I got the rest of the day to spend on the beach - which I needed because I had been used as the instrument to create the 'slow-down,' which required me to work faster than I could. They talked all weekend and on Monday it was back to work as usual.

Many people now with standard 39 or 40-hour work weeks routinely work longer hours, especially if they are paid by month; and these include managers - who sometimes work incredibly long hours.

It is possible that a 35-hour work week will open the gates to all sorts of short-time employment - less than 35 hours - and this will entice people with one low-paying job to take two, to make ends meet.

The situation could arise that this could cause a chronic shortage of jobs, which would result in a constant downward pressure on wages - perhaps to the point that ordinary workers would get paid no more for two 30-hour a week jobs than they used to get for one 40-hour a week gig.

Jacques and Cindy in India

While a lot of readers have been engrossed in the current media serial running in Washington that will become known as 'The Open Gate' - for all sorts of reasons - Jacques Chirac and Cindy Crawford have been criss-crossing each other's paths in India; each trying to peddle their various wares.

Cindy had a Japanese-brand watch to sell while the President of the Republic contented himself with selling 'France.' According to a confident, Mr. Chirac's efforts to learn Sanskrit were discouraged by his professor who suggested he learn Russian instead.

Apparently it was the right time for a visit to a large country where France has scant influence. The US is busy with other matters, India is loosening up its economy, and France is a certain key to the 'Euro.'

Titanic Box-Office

mannequins du caireI seldom mention foreign movies in France because I figure the whole rest of the world is talking about them, and that leaves me a monopoly to write about French movies, which I do about once in a month of Sundays.

But it is hard to overlook the fact that the movie about the sinking of the Titanic drew nearly a quarter-million spectators the week before last, and the film has sold over five million tickets in all since it opened in France.

The kids in my car-pool want me to see it and I obliged them by watching Bruce Willis on TV along with ten million other viewers, which is not bad for a movie named 'Piege en Eaux Troubles,' which was not about the Titanic at all but did have boats in it.

No Schmozzel in Hat; France Pulls Out Rabbit

The beginning of the week was filled with dire predictions for Wednesday night's trial football match at the new stadium, purpose-built for next summer's World Cup gala in France.

Last week I mentioned that the traffic people were worried about getting sportsfans to the new Stade de France, while the transport unions coyly played 'strike-alert' to drive up the blood-pressure of all concerned.

Even the Minister of Transport had suggested to everybody to start heading for the stadium around 17:00, to be on time for a 20:30 kickoff.

On the day of the match, Le Parisien gave it not only their front page, but their back page as well, with one double-page color photo spread. Inside, the paper said there were four other things le Parisien 'Quelle Fete' to worry about, besides the traffic. These two pages were followed by three about football and the match itself.

In the middle of the paper there was a four-page pull-out which showed the readers everything about the stadium, with a double-page illustration saying you are here: 'Place 9 in row 73 in the B1 tribune.'

This is at the top of 18 sets of stairs. From inside the stadium, there are four huge exists, which are supposed to allow 80,000 fans to leave within 15 minutes.

Le Parisien's usual Paris area traffic map looked decidedly odd, and the text said, 'From 15:00 until midnight, avoid the 17th, 18th and 19th arrondissements, the autoroutes A1 and A86, the National One, the N186 and the D24. From some reason, all the southeast exits from Paris seemed to be blocked, starting from 22:30.

Meanwhile, in order to get this city edition of the paper, I had to cool my heels waiting for a train. My friendly SNCF agent told me not to bother punching my ticket because the controllers never work on strike days - for the obvious reason that some passengers are a little more annoyed than usual.

I noted the train times that had been posted and got back without waiting, and I guess it was the usual two trains out of three that were running.

In the evening at 20:00 I glanced at the TV-news. There was a stupendous inaugural show in the new stadium and it looked like everybody who intended to come was inside it.

Outside it, there were no traffic jams, no transport strikes, no catastrophes. The autoroutes around the stadium were deserted and one driver said he went past it at 180 kph, amazed to get home in time to watch the game on TV.

Sportsfans actually arrived at the stadium at 17:00 as suggested, and then froze for three and a half hours until the game started in the near-zero temperatures. When the match was over, they went home to get warm.

Transport officials estimated that the RER and the métro carried 60,000 of the 80,000 spectators to the stadium, with the two RER lines handling 50,000 alone.

On top of it all, the French national team beat Spain, 1-0. Today there are 130 days left until the World Cup begins.

The World Cup SportsBar Never Closes; May Extend Hours

Real SportsFans should hang out the SportsBar where the fans have all the eggnog they can make themselves, at the Football Café, and have relaxing bowls of popcorn while discussing the finer points of the world of football, without getting too 'psychotorrid' about it. Cool.

Less uplifting are the 'official' Web sites: represenred by the FIFA - which stands for Federation International - and the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO. I don't what the initials stand for, just like SNCF does not sound like RR to me.


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