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CRIME

Paris cabbie faces retrial for Swede’s brutal killing

An illegal taxi driver convicted of the 2008 brutal kidnapping and murder of a Swedish student after picking her up outside a Paris nightclub will be retried at a court of appeal this month, after claiming police fabricated evidence against him. (pictured).

Paris cabbie faces retrial for Swede's brutal killing
Parents of Susanna Zetterberg, Carl Zetterberg (2ndR), Asa Palqist (2ndL) and his brother Samuel Zetterberg (R) leave the courthouse in Paris, on September 13, 2012. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The 2008 murder of Susanna Zetterberg, a 19-year-old from Stockholm studying French and working part-time in a cafe in the French capital, caused widespread shock and disgust in France and Sweden after her partially burnt body was discovered near Paris.

Bruno Cholet, 57, was convicted of the kidnap and murder after a trial in September 2012, but he consistently claimed police had fabricated the evidence against him.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment but appealed the verdict.

His retrial will take place from May 13th to May 23rd at a court in Melun, a town outside Paris.

Zetterberg was last seen leaving a nightclub and entering a taxi in central Paris at around 4:45 am on Saturday April 19th, 2008.

Later the same day her partially burnt body was discovered in the Chantilly forest, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Paris. She had been shot at least four times in the head and had her hands tied behind her back with a brand of handcuffs sold in sex shops.

The state of her body made it impossible to establish if she had suffered a sexual assault.

Traced though files on unlicensed cab drivers and images of a man seen using Zetterberg's bank cards following the murder, Cholet was arrested six days after her killing.

Shortly after his arrest, a pistol, bullets, rubber gloves and handcuffs were found in Cholet's car, some of the material containing traces of Zetterberg's DNA, according to the prosecution case.

Police also reported the discovery in the car of a plastic bag with the victim's name written incorrectly as "Susana 377" on it in felt pen.

As well as having been charged five times for operating an illegal cab, the accused has a string of serious convictions, including three for rape and one for armed robbery.

At the original trial Zetterberg's mother, father and brother were seated in the front row, surrounded by their lawyers and a Swedish interpreter.

"We hope that maybe, finally, the truth will be told," the family's lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne told journalists outside the court at the time.

Zetterberg's mother Åsa Palmqvist told French media on the eve of the 2012 trial that she was convinced Cholet was guilty.

"The important thing is to convict him, to prove that it was him. I will never be able to forgive him," she said, adding: "We are not expecting him to confess."

Cholet's lawyers however said the accused continued to deny any involvement in the killing and claimed police had set him up by planting evidence.

"The investigation was based from the outset on his guilt," said defence lawyer, Luc Ravaz at the time of the original trial.

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CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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