Frenchman charged over death of Israeli woman

A French driver whose vehicle was involved in the hit-and-run death of an Israeli woman has been charged with manslaughter, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday. France had refused to extradite the man to face trial in Israel.

Frenchman charged over death of Israeli woman
Friends and relatives of Lee Zeitouni (portrait), 25, who was killed in a hit and run incident with French drivers, protest on streets of Haifa. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP

French authorities on Tuesday charged the driver of a vehicle involved in the hit-and-run death of an Israeli woman in Tel Aviv two years ago, a judicial source said.

Eric Robic was charged with aggravated manslaughter and not providing aid to a person in distress, after French prosecutors opened a probe into the case last year, the source said.

Lee Zeitouni, 25, was hit by a speeding car on a Tel Aviv street in September 2011 and left to die. Robic and a fellow Frenchman, Claude Khayat, fled to France after the accident.

The case caused widespread outrage in Israel and prompted calls for the two men to be extradited to stand trial.

Robic is facing up to 10 years in prison and a 150,000 euro ($198,000) fine if convicted. He has been banned from leaving France and driving pending his trial.

Khayat has been called to appear before court on Thursday.

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French pair jailed for Israel hit-and-run death

A Frenchman who killed a young Israeli woman in a hit-and-run accident in Tel Aviv and immediately fled the country, sparking huge outrage, has been sentenced to five years in jail.

French pair jailed for Israel hit-and-run death
Frenchman Eric Robic (left) was jailed for five years for killing an Israeli woman in a hit and run accident. Photo: AFP

Eric Robic, (pictured) who confessed to being behind the wheel at the time of the 2011 tragedy, was sentenced by a Paris court to five years behind bars while his passenger, Claude Khayat, was sentenced to 15 months late Wednesday.

Both were accused of causing the death of Lee Zeitouni, a 25-year-old pilates instructor who was crossing the road to get to work the morning of September 16, 2011, when she was hit by the 4X4 driven by Robic.

Witnesses said the car was travelling at approximately 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour) in a zone where the maximum speed limit was half that.

The two men had just left a nightclub where they drank alcohol, according to witnesses.

They did not stop after the accident but immediately fled to France, prompting a huge outcry in Israel.

Pressure mounted on France to return the men to Israel to face trial, but France does not extradite its citizens outside the European Union.

Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed the family would get justice if a trial took place in France but stood firm against extradition, sparking a diplomatic spat with Tel Aviv.

Robic testified in court that he had drunk vodka and whisky that night and was driving above the speed limit.

He said he never saw the victim coming because his view was obscured by a truck but he felt the shock and "saw the body flying" in his rearview mirror.

Co-defendant Khayat said he was a "coward" for fleeing the scene. "But I was afraid," he told the court.

Both men have apologised to the victim's family.

Prosecutor Henry Guyomar described their escape to France as an "act of cowardice and of huge concealment."

He added that while Robic was the driver, Khayat was also "fully conscious of the risk involved in letting Robic drive."

The victim's parents, who were in tears, nade no comment on the verdict but her fiance Roy Peled said he was "satisfied" with the sentence.

The closely-watched trial was unexpectedly interrupted last week when an unidentified man punched defence lawyer Regis Meliodon in the face during a break in proceedings and then fled, underscoring the strong emotions surrounding the tragedy.