French trial over slain girl to go forward

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2011 10:53 AM
French trial over slain girl to go forward

A French court on Wednesday rejected a request to suspend the trial of a retired German doctor accused of murdering his teenage stepdaughter.

Defense lawyers had asked for the delay to seek a European Court of Justice ruling on whether the trial is valid because Dieter Krombach was kidnapped in Germany and brought to France on the orders of the girl's French father.

Krombach, who has denied any wrongdoing, lived in freedom for years in Germany after 15-year-old Kalinka Bamberski was found dead in her bed in 1982 in his home in Germany. The girl and her mother had moved in with Krombach after the girl's parents separated.

The girl's father, Andre Bamberski, believes that Krombach gave his daughter a dangerous injection to make her lose consciousness so he could rape her, Bamberski's lawyers say. The details on a cause of death from the autopsy weren't immediately available.

French law permits cases to be brought against killers of French citizens abroad. In 1995, France convicted Krombach in absentia of "intentional violence that led to unintentional death" and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Germany did not extradite him or press charges, saying there was insufficient evidence. The conviction was later overturned by the European Court of Justice on the grounds that Krombach had not received a fair defense.

In 2009, Krombach was kidnapped and left near a courthouse in eastern France. Andre Bamberski has admitted involvement in the kidnapping, saying he wanted Krombach tried.

"Now the trial can go forward in the normal manner, with the other circumstances out of the way, and this is what I'd always wanted, that Mr. Krombach be present, that Mr. Krombach express himself and that his lawyers defend him," Bamberski told reporters outside the courtroom.

Krombach's lawyer said he was "very disappointed" with the ruling.

"Don't you think it's a bit comic? The court says that if the state has organized a kidnapping we wouldn't be able to give this judgment. I'm really disappointed," Yves Levano said.

Bamberski made it his life's work to try to bring Krombach to court, hiring lawyers in France and Germany and rallying supporters through an association, Justice for Kalinka.

Krombach was badly beaten during his abduction, suffering head wounds, a broken rib and other injuries, his lawyers have said. Bamberski faces preliminary charges for kidnapping and willfully causing injuries. That case is still under investigation by French authorities separately from the case of his daughter's death.

France's highest court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled that Krombach's detention in France is legal. Lawyers defending the right to try Krombach in France compared the case to that of Nazi Klaus Barbie, known as the "Butcher of Lyon" for his role in the Holocaust, and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, a Cold War-era mastermind of deadly bombings known as Carlos the Jackal. Both were convicted in France after having been kidnapped or detained abroad.

The trial is expected to last through April 8. Witnesses include German women who have told investigators that they were drugged and abused by Krombach in the 1980s.

In 1997, Krombach was convicted in a German court to a two-year suspended sentence and suspended from medical practice after pleading guilty to drugging and raping a 16-year-old girl in his office.