Hit-and-run victim Lee Zeitouni 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy: Facebook)
On January 2 France’s ambassador, Christophe Bigot, told a Knesset panel that
“justice will be served in the Lee Zeitouni case.” He went on to elaborate on
exactly the opposite: how justice will be frustrated and probably not served
because France will never extradite the suspects in the hit-and-run case to
France’s actions are not in themselves anti-Israel, but they are
in line with a French law that makes a mockery of justice and shames
According to reports, in the early morning of September 16,
25-year-old Zeitouni was run down while crossing the street in Tel Aviv. She had
been on the way to the gym where she worked as a pilates instructor. The car, a
black BMW X6, sped off.
The car’s two occupants then returned to the
prestigious Rova Lev Ha’Ir apartments in central Tel Aviv where they ditched it
in an underground garage. The car was registered to thirty-seven year old Eric
Roubbi (sometimes reported as Rubic), a French national. Roubbi gathered his
wife and children from the apartment and left for the airport, along with his
friend Claude Isaac. Police claim that Isaac and Roubbi had been drinking in Tel
Aviv and suspect Isaac had been driving the car. The car was found by police to
be badly damaged.
After the men got to Paris police reported that Isaac
had called and “promised detectives he would report for questioning.” However,
it quickly became clear that the men would not return to Israel.
retained lawyers in France who told reporters that the men had no intention of
returning because they feared “anti-French” sentiment. One lawyer said the men
were “aware of the seriousness of the facts” and were willing to answer for them
in a French court. France’s first lady Carla Bruni told reporters on January 1
that “Israel’s request to investigate the matter has been received.”
FRENCH prosecutors have explained that the two suspects will not be extradited.
“That’s never going to happen,” said Nathalie Becache of the Val de Marne
prosecutors office in Paris. She even described the incident as an “accident”
and said the men would probably not receive long jail sentences if tried in
However, the reason the men will not be extradited is not
because, as was reported initially, Israel doesn’t have an extradition treaty
with France (there is such a treaty, signed in 1958), but rather because France
does not extradite its citizens, period.
In 2004 the country passed a law
that says France doesn’t extradite its citizens to non-EU countries: Not Israel,
the US, Canada or China. The French have said that the victim’s family or
Israeli police may lodge a complaint directly in France and take their chances
with French justice, but otherwise the men will remain free.
mysterious is that many countries, including Israel, continue to extradite
people to France, rather than retaliating and demanding they be tried in local
courts. In 2011 Israel extradited Patrick Azoulay, who had been convicted of sex
offenses, to France. In 2011 Canada extradited its own citizen, Hassan Diab, to
France to face attempted murder charges. Perhaps most egregious example is the
case of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom the United States
extradited to France to face money laundering charges, for which he was
sentenced to seven years in prison.
While all these cases may seem
acceptable – Noriega, Azoulay and Diab were bad individuals, according to their
indictments – it seems important for countries to stand up to France on this
According to French law, it appears that a French citizen may go
anywhere in the world outside of the EU and commit as many crimes as they want
so long as they can get back to France afterward. And judging by the actions of
Eric Roubbi and Claude Isaac, it appears French citizens know it.
interesting in this light to recall last year’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.
When American police got word that Mr. Strauss-Kahn was accused of raping a
woman they sent officers to get him off the plane he had boarded. It seems he
was only behaving as any French national would have, knowing the most imperative
thing after committing a dubious act is to get safely back to France.
French media was outraged at the treatment of Strauss-Kahn, calling the US
judicial system “accusatory.”
But the US understood that unless he was
made to answer the accusations they would never see him again.
aspect of his case was not highlighted in media reports, which acted as if it
would simply be difficult to extradite him.
While one may understand that
France is reticent to extradite its citizens to countries the judicial or prison
systems of which operate below certain standards, there is no justification for
an unjust law that says the country can never extradite its citizens, no matter
how harsh the crime.
Zeitouni’s YouTube videos of her practicing yoga are
still online, evidence of the young life that was allegedly snuffed out by
callous men from a country with a shameful law that allows its citizens to
commit any depravity in the world, so long as they can flee home.
writer has a PhD from Hebrew University and is a fellow at the Jerusalem
Institute for Market Studies.