France's longest-serving prisoner to be released after 38 years

Poissy prison near Paris where El Shannawy is incarcerated.
Poissy prison near Paris where El Shannawy is incarcerated. AFP PHOTO JOEL SAGET

After 38 years behind bars, France’s longest-serving prisoner, Philippe El Shennawy, is to be released tomorrow following a court decision on Wednesday.


Shennawy, who is 59 years old, was incarcerated in 1977 for robbing a Paris bank and taking hostages – crimes he denies having committed.

He was sentenced to life in prison – which in France is usually limited to 30 years behind bars, with parole afterwards.

In 1990 he was released on parole, 13 years after the original sentence – but he was sent back after he broke the rules of his parole.

He escaped in 1997, and then again in 2004. He committed several armed robberies before he was caught.

His sentence currently runs until 2032, with another three years of mandatory prison time. But in March last year, president Francois Hollande lifted that requirement.

The presidential pardon means Shennawy will be allowed out, though he’ll have to wear an electronic ankle monitor for two years.

His lawyers say he’ll go to live with his wife, and he already has a job, which he will start on Monday.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning