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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thirty years in search of justice

Thirty years in search of justice

In 1982 André Bamberski's teenage daughter died in suspicious circumstances. He has spent the past three decades campaigning for a conviction. Then finally he was driven to take the law into his own hands …

In the early hours of Sunday, 18 October last year, French police raced to Rue de Tilleul in the city of Mulhouse. Operating on a tip-off from an anonymous caller with a Russian accent, they were informed that in this narrow residential street near the centre of town they would find a notorious fugitive from French justice. It wasn't a long journey. The police headquarters were only four blocks away. When they arrived they came across a grey-haired man in an anorak lying curled up on the pavement, trussed, gagged and bleeding.

Mulhouse is in the Alsace region of eastern France, very close to the border with Germany. Its identity has proved elastic over the past 100 years, the city moving back and forth between France and Germany no fewer than six times. But even the flexinational Mulhousiens must struggle to understand the strange no-man's land of a bilateral impasse in which the bound man had successfully evaded trial for three decades. In a supposedly unified and borderless Europe, it was possible a heinous crime had been removed from the legal map by a powerful combination of nationalist intransigence and bureaucratic negligence.

The bruised 74-year-old told the police he had been kidnapped from his home in Lindau, Germany and driven through the night to Mulhouse, where he was dumped on the street. His name was Dr Dieter Krombach, a cardiologist who in 1995 had been convicted in a Paris court of the manslaughter of 14-year-old Kalinka Bamberski, which had taken place 13 years earlier. Despite being sentenced to 15 years in prison, Krombach never served a day, because he was tried in absentia. He remained in Germany through-out his trial, and the German authorities refused to extradite him.

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