Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2001

France won’t extradite suspect if he faces death penalty

March 31, 2001

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— A French prosecutor said Friday that an American fugitive wanted in the slaying of a New York state abortion doctor would not be extradited from France if he risks facing the death penalty in the United States.

Prosecutor Christine Lecrom said France would have no choice if authorities in the United States fail to guarantee that James Kopp, who was arrested in France after more than two years on the run, will not be sentenced to death if convicted.

"They will refuse to extradite him," Lecrom said at a news conference, held in front of police headquarters in the small northwestern town of Dinan, where Kopp was apprehended Thursday as he walked out of a post office.

Lecrom was among law enforcement officials who questioned Kopp after he was arrested. Although she will not be involved in arguing the extradition case, her views reflect French law, which prohibits the extradition of foreign nationals to countries where they could face the death penalty.

Kopp's arrest in France which abolished capital punishment in 1981 will likely complicate efforts to prosecute him. The United States has 40 days to file an extradition request, which would be heard by three judges in Rennes, the capital of the Brittany region.

Kopp, a 46-year-old known as the "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles, became one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives after the October 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian of Buffalo, N.Y.

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