PARIS (AP) -- Wartime collaborator Maurice Papon, convicted of sending French Jews to Nazi death camps, was released from prison Wednesday after a court ruled he was too old and sick to serve out his 10-year sentence.
Papon, 92, emerged from La Sante prison, heavily guarded by dozens of police. His lawyers helped him into a dark Renault sedan. Residents of a nearby apartment building leaned out of windows to watch.
The court's decision provoked immediate outpourings of frustration and dismay from Holocaust survivors and others who fought a long battle to bring Papon to justice. Papon was convicted in 1998 of complicity in crimes against humanity.
Now that he is free, Papon plans to "rest, rebuild his health and spend time with family and friends," lawyer Jean-Marc Varaut said.
Papon rose to budget minister after the war, making him the highest-ranking former French official sentenced for collaboration with the Nazis.
Papon led the Bordeaux area police during the Nazi occupation of France and was convicted in 1998 for signing orders that led to the deportation of 1,690 Jews from Bordeaux from 1942-44. Most were sent to Auschwitz. All but a handful died.
Papon's continuing imprisonment had sparked impassioned debate in France about jailing the elderly. Two former French prime ministers were among those who had called for Papon's release.
Papon had triple coronary bypass surgery several years ago.
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