France postpones extradition of U.S. fugitive
PARIS, France (CNN) -- France approved the extradition of U.S. fugitive and convicted murderer Ira Einhorn Thursday, then postponed it at the request of the European Court of Human Rights.
"We are going to follow the request of the court. He is going to stay in France until July 19," Justice Ministry official Charles Malinas said. He said he could not say what would happen after that.
Einhorn attempted suicide Thursday by slitting his throat and wrists after the decision to extradite him was delivered. The 61-year-old former anti-war activist was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 1993 in Pennsylvania for the 1977 murder of his girlfriend.
One of Einhorn's attorneys, Dominique Tricaud, said Einhorn had asked to be left alone when he learned of the ruling. After his suicide attempt, a doctor was summoned and Einhorn walked to an ambulance. Another of his attorneys said his wounds were not considered life-threatening.
The French judiciary does not accept the verdicts of trials in absentia and had refused to extradite Einhorn until a law was passed in Pennsylvania granting Einhorn a new trial. Tricaud told The Associated Press the decision to postpone Einhorn's extradition was "a great joy."
When France's highest administrative body, the Council of State, announced the ruling on Thursday, Einhorn was at his home in the Bordeaux wine-producing region of southwestern France where he lives with his Swedish-born wife, Annika Flodin Einhorn.
"I have been treated in a way over the last two weeks as if I were a camera," he said, holding a camera in one hand as the gaping, unbandaged wound in his neck oozed blood.
"I have been exchanged for a commercial deal between the United States and France. But this is a human body and that's a camera. That's not the way things should occur.
"All we care about now are products. We don't care about people. They can sleep in the streets. They cannot eat. As long as people can make cameras."
A ruling by the international European Court of Human Rights is Einhorn's last hope of avoiding being returned to Pennsylvania. In Washington, the U.S. Justice Department expressed disappointment at the delay.
"We are disappointment Einhorn's return has been delayed by an interim order of the European Court of Human Rights. We are continuing to work closely with our French counterparts in this matter," said a Justice Department official.
The department had earlier thanked the French government for deciding to send Einhorn back to the United States.
Einhorn was accused in the beating death of his girlfriend, Helen "Holly" Maddux, in 1977. Her corpse was found stuffed in a trunk inside a closet of Einhorn's Philadelphia home.
Einhorn denies killing Maddux, saying the charges stemmed from a government conspiracy against him. The victim's sister, Mary Maddux, said: "It's been 24 years. Hopefully this will be drawing 24 years of a chase to a close, at least to get Ira back here."
The Maddux family won a $907 million wrongful death verdict in 1999 against Einhorn that would deny him the ability to profit from his story as a fugitive through a book or movie deal.
Einhorn fled the U.S. in 1981 shortly before his trial in a Pennsylvania court. French authorities arrested him in 1997 in southern France, and the United States made its initial request for extradition.
France refuses to extradite people to countries where they could face the death penalty. The United States promised Einhorn would not be eligible for a death sentence during the retrial because Pennsylvania did not have the death penalty at the time of the crime.
Einhorn filed the last-chance appeal with France's Council of State after French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin made the decision to extradite Einhorn last year. France's high court had previously rejected an appeal by Einhorn in 1999.
|Back to the top|