Papon On the Lam

photo: bistr specialities francaises

With all the 'ethnic' eateries in the Rue de la Huchette, one called 'Specialities Françaises' is a surprise.

Perifreak! Goes Crazy

Paris:- Sunday, 24. October 1999:- Maurice Papon had a final date with justice last week, and he bungled it - to become the week's lead story.

Maurice Papon was a sub-top-level functionary of Vichy during WWII. After 18 years of legal proceedings, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to a ten-year term in jail. The last report about this man appeared in Metropole in April of 1998.

Mr. Papon appealed his conviction and was scheduled to appear last Friday at the Cour de Cassation - which is France's final court - which only examines the Constitutional aspects of a case.

A lot of people were upset that Maurice Papon was at liberty between the time of his conviction and his final court date. According to custom, he was supposedphoto: rue de la huchette to surrender to justice authorities on Thursday night.

Instead of doing this, the 89-year-old man fled. An International arrest warrant was immediately issued, launching a world-wide search for the fugitive.

The Rue de la Huchette in the rain.

Also, by fleeing, Papon automatically canceled his last appeal chance; the Cour de Cassation will not consider the case of anyone who skips; and the sentence stands as it was - ten years in prison. This man is well and truly convicted of crimes against humanity for his wartime role involving the deportation of French citizens - mostly Jewish - to the Nazi's extermination camps.

Reaction in France was immediate. First disbelief, then nearly universal anger. While a minority believed that he was too old to go to prison, most seemed to think that flight was a cowardly act.

Others questioned the legal process; requiring TV's talking heads and the newspapers to explain France's judicial procedures. Bernard Tapie, for example, surrendered himself and lost the final appeal - and served his allotted time.

The Cour de Cassation might have found some obscure loophole, some little Constitutional fault - any excuse not to put a person this age in jail. But there is no chance for this now.

Less than an hour after issuing the International arrest warrant, police investigators had traced him to where he was registered as Robert de Rochefoucauld at the Posthotel Rössli near Gstaad in Switzerland.

The Swiss police were immediately informed and 90 minutes later they detained the fugitive. Due to Papon havingphoto: snack cafe 'istanbul' stayed in Switzerland earlier in October, there was already an expulsion order - so neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Justice had to pressure the Swiss for the return of the escapee.

Even in the rain customers wait for near-east fast food.

After hustling him to the frontier Papon was picked up by a waiting police helicopter on the French side, and he was placed in a prepared cell in Fresnes near Paris - only slightly more than 24 hours after skipping out of the country.

For today's edition of Le Parisien, there is a boxed front-page headline, directing the reader to 'Papon's First Day In Prison,' on page 15. Most of the front page is devoted to France's chances with the World Rugby Championship.

Before today, Maurice Papon has spent exactly two days in jail; at the beginning of his most recent trail in October 1997. France's team beat Argentina in Dublin in the quarter-finals.

Angry Firemen Turn Perifreak! Into Madness

Around 15:00 on Thursday, angry firemen - pompiers - blocked the Perifreak! in the area of the Porte de Clichy. This caused one of Paris' all-time-record traffic jams.

At 17:00 police forces briefly cleared the situation but the pompiers returned to carry out theirphoto: mignonnettes mini-bottle shop protest, which affected road traffic on the entire Perifreak! as well as the interior of Paris.

Traffic only started to flow again after 23:00. Desperate motorists used the emergency lanes to try and reverse to the nearest exits - but if they made it, it was only to find that all roads adjacent to Paris' ill-famed ring road were also blocked solidly.

This shop's miniature bottles are a form of 'fast-booze.'

Traffic controllers had warnings posted on the illuminated info panels, but most drivers got too far into it to take evasion routes.

Besides being trapped in their cars with nothing but mobile phones for company, some drivers risked running out of fuel.

The pompiers were protesting against the over-long hours that they are required to serve - especially in areas outside Paris. Some are on duty between 48 and 72 hours a week, depending on their work schedule.

With these hours, recruits are hard to find and one fireman based in Yvelines was quoted as expecting to see his annual 'service-days' rise from 115 to 124 if new recruits are not found.

The protest action did not involve Paris' own pompiers, who condemned the chaos caused by the action of their colleagues from departments not even adjacent to Paris.

Calls to the '18' emergency number received in Paris numbered 5000 between 21:00 Thursday and Friday morning.

Outside of Paris the pompiers are professional or they are volunteers, but in Paris and Marseille theyphoto: place de la sorbonne are actually military units - which are not allowed to have unions, go on strike or make public demonstrations.

But what the firemen are really worried about after this bout of bad PR, is the coming sales of their Christmas calendars.

The rain brings down a few leaves in the Place de la Sorbonne.

Every year I normally buy one and another one from whoever delivers the mail, and since I was lucky enough to be completely ignorant of the troubled Perifreak! Thursday night, I will do so this year.

The one time I was in one of these Perifreak! messes, it was as I was driving home in a car I had just purchased. French car sellers have a habit of making sure the gastank is next to empty when they hand over the keys.

French Web Life

Very little - that I became aware of - was the total of 'life on the Web' in France last week. There is always Internet 'business' of course, but this is mostly dreamland and the purest PR and I don't pay much attention to it.

The Frankfurt Book Fair ended last Monday without me even knowing it was on. This is a 'really big show,' mainly of interest to those in the trade. Apparently new this year, was the emergence of 'eBooks' - from some closet they were hidden in - and next year there will even be awards for them. Better late than never gives you this hyperlink to try, if only to see the janitors sweeping up the confetti.

Last Week's URL Shorties - are still valid because I have no new ones. Some free and practical information is available, such as weather, the bourse, horoscopes or the Paris traffic report, at Webfute, which has links to various free sources. All you want to know about the theatre; especially what is playing and what you should see, is presented by the new site, Webthea. The site also offers links to other theatre-related sites. The 8th Prix Möbius France 1999 ran off on Friday, 15. and Saturday, 16. October at the Cité des Sciences. This effort saluted the best multimedia productions for the past year. Suggestions for these Web site references have been supplied by 'Internet Actu.'

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