LYON, France — Former local Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie refused today to appear at any more sessions of his trial on charges of crimes against humanity and declared he was extradited from Bolivia to France illegally.
After two hours of questioning about his past from Judge Andre Cerdini, Barbie read a statement to the court complaining of his expulsion from Bolivia in 1983 and saying he wanted to be returned to his prison cell.
Under French judicial proceedings, a defendant is not required to remain in court during his trial.
"I want to say to the judges as well as the jurors of the tribunal of Lyon that I am being held here in an illegal fashion, that I was the victim of a kidnaping," Barbie said.
'I Am a Bolivian Citizen'
"In spite of the respect that I have for you," he went on, "I want to tell you that I am a Bolivian citizen. I no longer have the intention to be present before this tribunal. Mr. President, I ask you to have me taken back to St. Joseph Prison."
He said that "despite the climate of vengeance and the lynching campaign waged by the French media," he was leaving "the battle for honor and justice" to his lawyer, Paris attorney Jacques Verges.
When Cerdini asked if the defense still planned to call its witnesses, Barbie replied: "The trial can follow its course, the witnesses can testify, but I will no longer be present."
Explosion of Protest
The statement led to an explosion of protest from the dozens of lawyers representing about 150 civil parties to the case, with one lawyer demanding that Barbie be kept in the courtroom by force.
One victim said, "At the age of 17, I was tortured. I would like you to remain and hear the truth and look into the eyes of the people you tortured. But you refuse. You disappoint me. You're a coward."
Barbie, given one more chance to reconsider, responded, "This is purely a judicial affair. It has nothing to do with cowardliness."
After several minutes of debate among lawyers, Cerdini suspended court and Barbie was taken back to prison. He must return to hear the verdict against him.
Barbie, 73, accused of sending Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II, read the statement after testifying he does not hate Jews or other minorities.