French pair jailed for Israel hit-and-run

2014-12-04 16:33
Roy Peled, the boyfriend of Lee Zitouni, who was killed in a hit and run accident by French driver Eric Robic holds the latter's picture as he calls for justice. (Jack Guez, AFP)

Roy Peled, the boyfriend of Lee Zitouni, who was killed in a hit and run accident by French driver Eric Robic holds the latter's picture as he calls for justice. (Jack Guez, AFP)

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Paris - A Frenchman who killed a young Israeli woman in a hit-and-run accident in Tel Aviv and immediately fled the country, sparking huge outrage, has been sentenced to five years in jail.

Eric Robic, who confessed to being behind the wheel at the time of the 2011 tragedy, was sentenced by a Paris court to five years behind bars while his passenger, Claude Khayat, was sentenced to 15 months late Wednesday.

Both were accused of causing the death of Lee Zeitouni, a 25-year-old pilates instructor who was crossing the road to get to work the morning of 16 September 2011, when she was hit by the 4X4 driven by Robic.

Witnesses said the car was travelling at approximately 100km/h in a zone where the maximum speed limit was half that.

The two men had just left a nightclub where they drank alcohol, according to witnesses.

They did not stop after the accident but immediately fled to France, prompting a huge outcry in Israel.

Pressure mounted on France to return the men to Israel to face trial, but France does not extradite its citizens outside the European Union.

Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed the family would get justice if a trial took place in France but stood firm against extradition, sparking a diplomatic spat with Tel Aviv.

Robic testified in court that he had drunk vodka and whisky that night and was driving above the speed limit.

He said he never saw the victim coming because his view was obscured by a truck but he felt the shock and "saw the body flying" in his rear-view mirror.

Co-defendant Khayat said he was a "coward" for fleeing the scene. "But I was afraid", he told the court.

Both men have apologised to the victim's family.

Prosecutor Henry Guyomar described their escape to France as an "act of cowardice and of huge concealment".

He added that while Robic was the driver, Khayat was also "fully conscious of the risk involved in letting Robic drive."

The victim's parents, who were in tears, nade no comment on the verdict but her fiance Roy Peled said he was "satisfied" with the sentence.

The closely-watched trial was unexpectedly interrupted last week when an unidentified man punched defence lawyer Regis Meliodon in the face during a break in proceedings and then fled, underscoring the strong emotions surrounding the tragedy.

Read more on:    nicolas sarkozy  |  france  |  israel

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