French Driver Indicted in Deadly Tel Aviv Hit-and-run

French tourist Eric Robic, who ran down Lee Zeitouni and fled the country, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter.

The French driver who struck and killed an Israeli woman in Tel Aviv two years ago and then fled to France was indicted by a court in Paris on Tuesday on charges of aggravated manslaughter.

Eric Robic, the hit-and-run driver who killed 25-year-old Lee Zeitouni as she was crossing  a Tel Aviv crosswalk in September 2011, was also charged with failure to render assistance and fleeing the scene of an accident. Robic, a French citizen, was prohibited from leaving France and his driver’s license was revoked.

The maximum penalty for the crimes of which Robic stands accused is 10 years in prison and a 150,000 euro fine.

A hearing is to be held Friday for Robic’s passenger at the time of the hit-and-run, Claude Khayat. According to the French news agency, the fact that Robic and Khayat were speeding and ran a red light led to court to treat the case more severely.

Robic and Khayat, who were visiting Israel,  struck Zeitouni at the corner of Pinkas and Weizmann Streets in Tel Aviv in the jeep driven by Robic. The pair continued driving, leaving Zeitouni at the scene. The jeep was later found in a parking lot in the city, but Robic and Khayat had already fled the country for France. Israel had tried since then to persuade the French authorities to extradite the pair, but the prosecutor and the French ambassador explained that this would not be possible.

“French law does not allow the extradition of French citizens to countries that are not members of the European Union,” Ambassador Christophe Bigot said at the time.

Robic and Khayat also asked that they be tried in France,their home country. Khayat explained a few days after the incident that: “If I go back to Israel I’ll get 20 years in jail” and Robic’s attorney claimed that his client could not get a fair trial in Israel because of the hostile attitude of the public.

After efforts to bring the pair to justice in Israel failed, Zeitouni’s parents filed a complaint against Robic and Khayat in France.

According to a report in the French daily Le Monde yesterday , France’s inability to extradite Khayat and Robic was a source of great embarrassment in Paris.

In January 2012, Haaretz revealed that Robic and Khayat had a criminal record for traffic violations, having been arrested a number of times for driving drunk or without a license. In January this year Khayat was stopped in Nice driving at 156 kilometers per hour, apparently under the influence of alcohol. A few days earlier, Robic was arrested on a charge of fraud.

Hagai Frid