French Ambassador Says Hit-and-run Suspects Won't Face Trial in Israel

Lee Zeitouni dies after being hit by car allegedly registered to Claude Isaacs and driven by Eric Roubbi, as she crossed a Tel Aviv street; they both fled to France hours after.

The French ambassador to Israel told a Knesset committee on Tuesday that the two French nationals accused of killing a young Israeli woman in a hit-and-run accident last September will not be extradited to stand trial in Israel.

Lee Zeitouni, 25, died after being hit by a car that was allegedly registered to Claude Isaacs and driven by Eric Roubbi, with Isaacs as a passenger, as she crossed a Tel Aviv street. The two men fled to France hours after the incident. Lawyers for Roubbi and Isaacs have said the men are willing to face up to their responsibilities but fear they would not receive a fair trial in Israel.

Speaking to a special session of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, ambassador Christophe Bigot said a French law passed in 2004 prohibits the extradition of French citizens to any state that is not a member of the European Union. When asked why Roubbi and Isaacs had not been taken into custody in France, Bigot said Zeitouni's family had not filed a formal request, through the Israel Police, to arrest the suspects.

"We know where they are and where they live," Bigot said, adding, "We understand the frustration and the emotions, but it's a legal procedure."

The ambassador emphasized that the justice and law enforcement agencies of both countries are cooperating closely on finding a way to bring Isaacs and Roubbi to justice.

Attorney Yitzchak Blum, of the Attorney General's Office, told the Knesset committee that the case is still under investigation. He said the principle of judicial immunity barred him from revealing whether Israel will file an extradition request.

"The aim is not to arrest them, but rather to see to it that they receive a significant punishment," Blum said.

The Israel Police representative at Tuesday's session cited the media gag order in declining to discuss details of the case.

In a statement, the international department of the Attorney General's Office said France had supplied information related to the case in response to requests from Israel, and that the department's deputy director had been in France to speak to officials there.

"In contrast to various reports," the statement added, "Israel and France have an extradition convention and an effective extradition relationship. However, France does not extradite its citizens."