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France

Ex-Socialist party leader Martine Aubry on possible manslaughter charges

Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Former Socialist party leader Martine Aubry has been summoned to appear before judges on Tuesday on possible charges of involuntary manslaughter. The case dates back to the 1980s when Aubry was Director of Labour Relations, and France’s use of asbestos in the public sector. 

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Aubry maintains that she has always worked to protect employees and has indicated that she will attempt to convince judges to remove the charges, which she finds “incomprehensible.”

Judges have already heard some ten workers’ testimonies about their experiences with asbestos in the workplace, but are particularly interested in hearing from public officials from the 1970s and 80s.

Besides Aubry, two other officials are implicated in the case: Olivier Dutheillet de Lamothe, who succeeded Aubry as Director of Labour Relations until 1995, and Jean-François Girard, who was the Director General of Health from 1986 to 1997.

The cancerous nature of asbestos has been known in France since the 1950s, but the first laws to end its use didn’t arrive until 1977 and it wasn’t banned until 1997. In 2005, a senatorial report showed the state’s poor management of the material.

In France, asbestos was largely used in the construction sector, and is thought to have caused 10 to 20 percent of lung cancers. Health authorities say it could cause 100,000 deaths by 2025.

Lawyers for Aubry and her fellow officials say they are shocked that the leaders are being targeted as the perpetrators – not the victims – in the case, after devoting their careers to protecting the rights of the French people.
 

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