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Sophie's uncle challenges Bailey to face French court

Suspect's solicitor says 'no hope' of fair trial

Shane Phelan and Ralph Riegel

Published 16/04/2011 | 05:00

THE uncle of Sophie Toscan du Plantier has challenged self-confessed murder suspect Ian Bailey to voluntarily travel to France to make his case after Mr Bailey's solicitor claimed he had "no hope" of a fair trial.

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Jean Pierre Gazeau issued the challenge last night after solicitor Frank Buttimer had earlier slated the French justice system.

Mr Buttimer predicted that even if Mr Bailey succeeded in his Supreme Court battle against extradition, the French authorities would still proceed with a trial in his absence.

But Mr Gazeau -- whose 39-year-old niece was discovered battered to death in West Cork on December 23, 1996 -- described Mr Buttimer's comments as being "part of a game".

Mr Gazeau said Mr Buttimer's concerns about the French justice system were totally unfounded.

"I have full confidence in the French justice system," he told the Irish Independent.

"The judge, Mr (Patrick) Gachon, has followed all the procedures correctly. I think Mr Buttimer is wrong in suggesting there is no possibility of a fair trial," he added.

"In France, a defendant has his defence lawyer, access to the investigation file and all of the allegations being made against them. It is not as if the French criminal system is condemning innocent people systematically."

Mr Buttimer claimed the Paris authorities were entitled to run a prosecution without witnesses from Ireland being present, and would also be able to pick and choose witness statements that suit them.

He also said the Irish extradition process was now being closely studied given that Mr Bailey was a UK national.

Mr Buttimer's remarks came just days after Mr Bailey was allowed by Mr Justice Michael Peart in the High Court to challenge his extradition order to the Supreme Court.

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The Manchester-born former journalist -- who has vehemently denied any involvement in the death of the Frenchwoman -- has also vowed to take the case to the European Court if necessary.

Mr Bailey has repeatedly claimed over the past decade that sinister attempts were made to frame him for the brutal murder.

Mr Buttimer stressed his client was determined not to go to France because he had already been judged there.

"He has been found guilty by the media, he has been found guilty by the public. I have read articles about Ian Bailey's guilt over there that would make the hair stand on your head."

He also said Ms Toscan du Plantier's family had been "misled and misguided" over the exclusive focus on Mr Bailey.

Irish Independent

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