PARIS (AP) — A French woman who was convicted of shooting and killing her allegedly violent husband was granted a presidential pardon on Wednesday in a case that drew public attention to the issue of domestic abuse.
Two hours after President Francois Hollande pardoned her, 69-year-old Jacqueline Sauvage was seen leaving a prison southeast of Paris in a dark gray sedan after spending more than three years behind bars.
Two different juries sentenced Sauvage to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting her husband, Norbert Marot, three times in the back with a hunting rifle in 2012.
During the trials in 2014 and 2015, Sauvage said her late husband had beaten her for 47 years. The couple's adult daughters also claimed Marot had abused them. Neither Sauvage nor the daughters ever filed a complaint against him.
The three women said they were too humiliated to seek help and instead suffered violence that included sexual abuse silently behind closed doors.
In a statement, the Elysee Palace said Hollande decided that "the place of Ms. Sauvage was no longer in prison, but with her family."
Women's rights advocates, politicians and sympathizers around France had mobilized to support Sauvage, with a petition calling for her to be pardoned signed by hundreds of thousands.
Nathalie Tomasini, one of Sauvage's lawyers, told RTL radio the pardon was a "very strong message sent by François Hollande to all women victims of domestic violence."
Actress Eva Darlan, who chairs a support committee that advocated for Sauvage, said on BFM television that the presidential pardon is a "strong gesture toward men who hit (women)."
In January, Hollande granted a partial pardon to Sauvage, allowing her to seek parole. But two more courts made up of professional magistrates refused to free her.
The president of the main union of French magistrates said Hollande made a "deplorable" decision "to please the public and to respond to a media request."
"It is a political decision... that challenges the functioning of our institutions," Virginie Duval said on BFM.
The French Constitution allows a president to pardon convicts and to reduce prison sentences.
The Associated Press doesn't typically name victims of extremely severe abuse, but the victims in this case have told their stories publicly.