Frenchman sentenced to 5 years for Israeli hit-and-run killing
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Frenchman sentenced to 5 years for Israeli hit-and-run killing

Eric Robic struck 25-year-old Lee Zeitouni in Tel Aviv in 2011, then fled to France; second man in car given 15 months behind bars

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The parents of Lee Zeitouni, who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2011, arrive at the courthouse in Paris, November 27, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard)
The parents of Lee Zeitouni, who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2011, arrive at the courthouse in Paris, November 27, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard)

A French man was sentenced to five years in prison by a Paris court for the 2011 hit-and-run death of an Israel woman in Tel Aviv.

Eric Robic, who confessed to being behind the wheel at the time, struck 25-year-old Pilates instructor Lee Zeitouni on the morning of September 16, 2011, as she was crossing a Tel Aviv road to get to work.

The passenger in the vehicle, Claude Khayat, was found guilty of not providing aid to a person in distress and sentenced to 15 months in jail.

Zeitouni’s boyfriend, Roy Peled, expressed satisfaction with the verdict. He has campaigned in Israel and abroad to raise awareness about the case.

Witnesses said the car was traveling at approximately 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in a zone where the maximum speed limit was half that.

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

They did not stop after the accident and 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 Jerusalem.

The trial of the two Frenchmen was halted last Thursday after a defense lawyer was assaulted during a break in proceedings.

An unidentified man punched Regis Meliodon, a lawyer for one of the defendants, in the face during a break in the trial and then fled.

The trial picked up again on Wednesday with statements from the defense and prosecutors.

The assault underscored the strong emotions surrounding the 2011 tragedy, which sparked outrage in Israel after the pair fled to France.

Lee Zeitouni (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lee Zeitouni (photo credit: Courtesy)

Meliodon, a lawyer for Khayat, said his client “was looking forward to this moment, to offer explanations and apologize to the family.”

Zeitouni’s parents flew to France to attend the trial and both burst out crying during the deliberations, Ynet reported. Friends of the young woman and supporters from the local Jewish community also went to the trial but were not let into the courtroom, according to the report.

“We have an opportunity to tell the world that justice can be served, and people cannot run away from it,” said Peled.

A court sketch shows French defendants Eric Robic (L) and Claude Khayat (R) standing trial on November 27, 2014 at the courtroom in Paris on charges of a hit-and-run road accident in Tel Aviv that killed a young Israeli woman, Lee Zeitouni, a 25-year-old pilates instructor, and sparked outrage in Israel after the pair fled to France. (Photo credit: AFP/ BENOIT PEYRUCQ)
A court sketch shows French defendants Eric Robic (left) and Claude Khayat (right) standing trial on November 27, 2014, at the courtroom in Paris on charges of a hit-and-run road accident in Tel Aviv that killed a young Israeli woman, Lee Zeitouni, 25, and sparked outrage in Israel after the pair fled to France. (photo credit: AFP/Benoit Peyrucq)

The victim’s family would have preferred the trial to have taken place in Israel, their lawyer said.

“But this is better than nothing and they have arrived with confidence,” added the lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel.

He described Robic as a “habitual road criminal” who showed “rare cowardice” in deciding to flee the scene.

AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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