CRETEIL, France (AP) — A French court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a retired German doctor in the death of his teenage stepdaughter, capping a decades-long cross-border battle for justice by the girl's father.
The court in Creteil southeast of Paris approved a lower court's decision last year sentencing Dieter Krombach, 77, to 15 years in prison for "intentional violence that led to unintentional death."
The ruling culminated a longtime legal battle between two men, in two countries, now both in their 70s. But the case also raised larger questions about cross-border justice in the borderless European Union, and whether the father was right to try to take justice into his own hands.
Krombach's 15-year-old stepdaughter, Kalinka, died in her bed at his home in July 1982. But Andre Bamberski, the girl's father, believed the doctor gave his daughter a dangerous injection so he could rape her, and made it his life's work to bring Krombach to justice.
Bamberski hired lawyers in France and Germany and finally arranged to have Krombach kidnapped, tied up and placed near a courthouse in the northeastern French city of Mulhouse in 2009.
Krombach had been suspended from practicing medicine in Germany after he was convicted in 1997 by a German court of drugging and raping a 16-year-old girl in his office. After he pleaded guilty, the German court gave him a two-year suspended sentence.
But in the case of Kalinka, it refused to extradite him to France or file charges, saying the evidence was insufficient. An autopsy of Kalinka showed she died of a respiratory distress stemming from administration of anesthesia, and an injury to her private parts, but it was unable to officially determine whether she had been raped.
Kidnapping charges are still pending against Bamberski, who choked up outside the courtroom after the verdict Thursday.
"Really, it is for me another victory for Kalinka," he told reporters. "My first thoughts, of course, are for her — for the promise I made her ... I will be able to continue the period of mourning that I have already started."
Philippe Ohayon, a lawyer for Krombach, has argued that his client was innocent, and said the case should go to a Europe-wide court.
The 15-year sentence, Ohayon said, "is condemning him to death ... It is very difficult to understand this sentence because it concerns an innocent man."
A court in France convicted Krombach in absentia in 1995 of "intentional violence that led to unintentional death" and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He was re-tried after being hauled to France.