French court cancels charges against ex-minister over Covid handling

France's top court on Friday threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn over her allegedly "endangering the lives of others" by initially downplaying the gravity of Covid-19.

French court cancels charges against ex-minister over Covid handling
Former Health Minister Agnes Buzyn, who resigned in mid-February 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, at the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) in Paris in September 2021. (Photo by Lucas BARIOULET / AFP)

The former doctor, who served in cabinet from May 2017 until her resignation for a failed bid to become Paris mayor in February 2020, has always denied the charges.

She is the only ex-official to have been indicted over government mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic after she stepped down.

The prosecutor of the Republic’s Court of Justice, which investigates alleged wrongdoing by ministers, charged her with “endangering the lives of others” in 2021.

But the country’s Court of Cassation on Friday dismissed the charges, saying there was no legal provision to hold her directly responsible.

READ MORE: Can anybody in France now get the latest Covid booster vaccine?

“The former minister cannot be referred to the Republic’s Court of Justice to be tried,” it ruled.

Buzyn was not immediately available for comment, and her lawyer did not wish to comment.

In March 2020, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France was “at war” with Covid-19 and placed the country under the first of three lockdowns to halt its spread. 

Magistrates of the Republic’s Court of Justice started investigating mismanagement of the pandemic in July 2020, after receiving  complaints, including over a lack of protective gear for healthcare workers and unclear government instructions on whether or not to wear surgical masks.

Edouard Philippe, who was prime minister until July 2020, was investigated but managed to escape charges.

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Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Frenchman Sebastien Raoult pleaded not guilty to cybercrimes Friday in Seattle federal court, two days after he was extradited from Morocco.

Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Federal Judge Michelle Peterson told the 21-year-old Raoult that he was charged with nine counts, including conspiracy, computer intrusion, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Raoult listened through an interpreter.

After Raoult’s plea of not guilty, the judge ordered him to be detained as a flight risk until a hearing April 3.

Moroccan authorities arrested Raoult at Rabat airport May 31 at the request of the US Department of Justice. Along with Raoult, two other French nationals were also arrested, Gabriel Bildstein, 23, and Abdel-Hakim El-Ahmadi, 22.

According to Raoult’s indictment, he and the other two men are alleged to have formed a hacking team, dubbed “ShinyHunters,” to steal confidential data from 60 companies to sell on the dark web where criminals routinely operate.

Some of the companies are located in the Seattle area.

According to experts, beginning in 2020, the hackers stole customer data from the Indonesian e-commerce site Tokopedia, the US clothing brand Bonobos, the US telecom AT&T and many other companies, putting the personal data for sale on the dark web.

The criminal charges carry a possible jail term of up to 27 years in prison.