Aubry probed over asbestos deaths

Former French socialist party leader Martine Aubry said Tuesday she had come under investigation for "involuntary manslaughter and causing bodily harm by negligence" in an asbestos scandal.

Investigating magistrate Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy "believes she must put me under investigation over my role as the director of work relations 25 years ago between 1984 and 1987", in the then socialist-run labour ministry, Aubry said after a more than seven-hour Paris court hearing.

"Nothing warrants such a probe," she added.

Asbestos was widely used as building insulation because of its sound absorption and resistance to fire, heat and electrical damage, but exposure to it can cause pneumonia and cancer.

Critics say asbestos exposure claims more than 107,000 lives around the world each year.

Bertella-Geffroy, whose job includes public health issues, notably probes government action on the controversial fire-resistant substance between the 1970s and its ban in 1997.

She has questioned dozens of civil servants as well as scientists and industry leaders and put several people under investigation, a step that may lead to charges being brought.

An association representing victims of asbestosis accuses asbestos lobbyists of downplaying the health concerns in the 1980s and 90s to put off a looming ban of the substance.

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