A campaign group set up to seek justice for French murder victim Sophie Toscan du Plantier whose body was found 20 years ago on Friday in West Cork have rejected suggestions by lawyers for suspect Ian Bailey that he would not get a fair trial in France.
The Association for the Truth About the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, (ASSOPH) have said Mr Bailey has nothing to fear from coming to France to stand trial if, as he claims, he is innocent of the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier at her holiday home near Schull on December 23rd 1996.
Mr Bailey was twice arrested for questioning about the killing by gardaí, but released without charge on each occasion and he has denied any involvement in the death of the French film producer and has denied ever making any admissions that he was responsible for her death.
On July 27th last, investigating French magistrate Judge Nathalie Turquey issued an ordonnance de renvoi, summarising evidence against Mr Bailey following a French investigation and sending him to trial for voluntary homicide in the Paris assizes high criminal court.
It is understood French authorities have sent a European Arrest Warrant to the Department of Justice seeking Mr Bailey’s extradition to France to stand trial on the charge.
The expectation is that Mr Bailey will not be extradited to France and will be tried in absentia.
Mr Bailey's Irish solicitor, Frank Buttimer, has described the prospect of Mr Bailey being tried in France in absentia as "a farce", saying the entire French investigation and decision to charge him is based on a Garda investigation which the DPP decided in 2001 did not merit a prosecution.
Mr Bailey's French lawyer, Dominique Tricaud has been similarly critical of the French process, saying it is "one-sided" and that Mr Bailey would be boycotting any French trial even though it means he will be denied access to the French file.
In a strongly worded statement, ASSOPH have rejected both Mr Buttimer and Mr Tricaud’s comments regarding the French process being farcical and biased and said such descriptions would be better applied to the Irish justice system and its failure to extradite Mr Bailey.
It said: "We ask on what side is the farce or the bias? Is it not the refusal by Ireland to fulfil its obligations in terms of justice and European judicial cooperation over 20 years or is it not the distressing spectacle of the suspect during the cases the brought against and newspapers and the Irish State and lost?
“To clarify matters, the French Judicial procedure is not a ‘farce’ and is not ‘one-sided’. The French judicial procedure offers sound guarantees by allowing the accused person, considered at the moment to be presumed innocent.”
ASSOPH said Mr Bailey has a right to appeal against his committal for trial by the assize court, a right to be given access to the judicial enquiry file and a right to be represented and defended by a lawyer if a trial is held in absentia in Paris.
In the event of Mr Bailey being tried, convicted in absentia and subsequently extradited to France, he has the right to have a new trial at which he would be be present and legally represented, said ASSOPH.
Meanwhile, the family of Ms Toscan du Plantier - her elderly parents Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, her son Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud and her brother, Bertrand Bouniol - and other relatives will gather in Paris on Friday for a private Mass.
Early next year Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, Bertrand Bouniol and his son, Baptiste, will travel to Goleen in West Cork where they will attend an anniversary mass at the Church of Our Lady, the Star of the Sea and St Patrick in Goleen on January 15th.