PARIS — France's highest court Thursday ordered Maurice Papon, a former high-ranking Vichy official, to stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly deporting Jews to death camps during World War II.
The ruling, rejecting Papon's last appeal to avoid trial, is expected to give France its first penetrating and systematic examination of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime's role in the extermination of Jews.
Papon, 86, is the last living Frenchman facing such charges. He is accused of ordering the arrest and deportation of 1,690 French Jews between 1942 and 1944 when he was a local police supervisor in Bordeaux in southwestern France.
About 75,000 Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps during the Vichy regime. Only 2,500 survived.
Papon, who did not attend the hearing, has denied the charges.
"The strange ruling concerning me, based on facts which the Bordeaux court falsified, adds to the political nature of this trial," Papon said in a statement.
The court said he exercised "free will" in carrying out Vichy's anti-Jewish policies and that he was never pressured by the Germans.