French authorities investigating the death of film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Co Cork 20 years ago plan to charge Ian Bailey in Paris with her murder.
They are also seeking his extradition from Ireland so he can face trial in France.
Newly appointed investigating magistrate Nathalie Turquey has delivered an indictment order to start a criminal case at the Court of Assizes in Paris on the ground of voluntary homicide against Mr Bailey following an investigation into the death of Ms Toscan du Plantier.
The process is the equivalent of charging Mr Bailey with the killing in absentia and involves having him listed for trial in France, according to French legal sources.
Under Article 113.7 of the Penal Code of France, the French authorities can prosecute a person for an offence against a French citizen committed outside of the territory of France - a provision which dates back to Napoleonic times.
Ms Toscan du Plantier's badly-beaten body was found outside her holiday home near Toormore outside Schull in west Cork on the morning of December 23rd, 1996. Nobody has ever been charged in Ireland in connection with her death, despite an extensive Garda investigation.
Mr Bailey (59), an English journalist living in Co Cork, was twice arrested by gardaí and questioned about the murder.
He has always denied any involvement in Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death and has also denied ever making any admissions that he killed her.
According to campaign group, the Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (ASSOPH), Judge Nathalie Turquey, who took over the investigation earlier this year from Judge Patrick Gachon, delivered the indictment order on July 27th.
And according to ASSOPH, the French authorities issued a second arrest warrant on July 13th for Mr Bailey’s extradition to France to stand trial on the homicide charge.
The news that Mr Bailey is to go on trial in France was warmly welcomed by Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, who said it marked yet another stage on the long quest for justice for his mother.
“It was not a surprise. We were waiting and hoping for it but we were really happy that it comes before the summer so that we can gain some months before the actual trial takes place but it is a very good thing for us and we are really happy about it,” said Mr Baudey-Vignaud.
“It’s a kind of victory for us that the judge and the entire French justice systems believes that his man has a case to answer - it still has some way to go but it’s important to us after 20 years that we can finally hope to get answers about what happened to my mother.”
Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for ASSOPH and Ms Toscan du Plantier's elderly parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, also welcomed the news and said it was an important development in the family's bid to get justice for their daughter.
“From the family’s perspective, it is a very significant development after 20 years of the French inquiry and they very much welcome it,” he said. “Georges and Marguerite are very satisfied as they hope now with a trial the truth will finally emerge about what happened to their daughter.”
Mr Spilliaert said Mr Bailey can appeal the decision of Judge Turquey to indict him for voluntary homicide. This could take four months to decide.
If there is no appeal, it would take at least six months before a trial would take place, the lawyer said.