Will hit and run fugitives stand trial in France?

Suspect fled Israel to Paris, leaving baby girl behind in care of foreign nanny; Justice Ministry says Israel, France have extradition treaty.

By
September 18, 2011 13:28
2 minute read.
Hit-and-run victim Lee Zeitouni

Hit-and-run victim Lee Zeitouni 311. (photo credit: Courtesy: Facebook)

 
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As two French nationals suspected of carrying out a lethal hit and run accident continued to consult with their attorneys in Paris after fleeing the country on Friday, Israeli law enforcement officials were in close touch with their French counterparts over how to bring the men to justice.

Tel Aviv state prosecutors said they were waiting for the Israel Police to complete its investigation into the incident, in which a BMW vehicle struck and killed 25-year-old Pilates instructor Lee Zeitouni as she walked to work in north Tel Aviv Friday.

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The suspects fled the scene, driving recklessly through red lights, according to police. Both suspects then packed suitcases in a hurry, gathered family members together, and flew to Paris.

State prosecutors are waiting for the police investigation to be complete before making a decision on whether to ask France to extradite the men to Israel or to try them in a French court, the Justice Ministry said.

"Despite reports to the contrary, Israel and France do have an extradition treaty, which is the European extradition treaty," the Justice Ministry said.

"In general, France, like most European countries, does not extradite its citizens, but places them on trial in its territory for offenses committed, after evidence is made available," the Justice Ministry added.

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The man suspected of driving the car, Claude Issac, 40, left his daughter in Tel Aviv the care of a foreign worker before rushing to Ben Gurion airport with the jeep's owner, 38-year-old Eric Rubic and boarding a flight to Paris, as police in Israel were still searching for the vehicle and suspects.

Hours after he departed, officers traced Issac to the building on Tel Aviv's Maze Street, and waited in the home after concluding that a member of Issac's family would return to retrieve the baby.

Issac's wife landed in Israel from France on Saturday and found police officers waiting in her home with the baby and caretaker. She was reportedly unaware of the hit and run incident and her husband's involvement.

Police urged her to call her fugitive husband, which she proceeded to do. A line of communications was then established between the suspect and police. Isaac told police he was consulting with a lawyer over his next course of action.

Zeitouni was on her way to a gym to give a class when she was struck by a black BMW sports utility vehicle on Pinkhas Street. She was killed instantly.

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