A French Socialist party leader who was charged with manslaughter related to the death of thousands of French citizens who were exposed to asbestos has been cleared of the charges by an upper-level court. The decision paves the way for Martine Aubry to re-enter the political scene.
“The courts today [recognized] that no fault or negligence could be attributed to me,” said Aubry, who is presently the mayor of the northern city of Lille. The statement appeared in The Local, a publication that profiles France’s news in English.
“Everybody knows that I have always acted as an official and as a minister to defend and reinforce the rights of workers and protect them from occupational hazards,” she added.
It was alleged that Aubry, who served as the director of industrial relations for the ministry of social affairs from 1984-1987, worked to delay the implementation of a 1983 European Union directive that was designed to strengthen the protection of workers who regularly dealt with asbestos in the workplace. Opponents say she caved in to pressure from lobbyists that were fighting a complete ban on the use of asbestos in France. They claim she ignored warnings from the French health community stating that the number of cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer from asbestos exposure was growing rapidly.
The case in which she was cleared was specifically related to workers at the Fereo-Valeo auto components factory in Normandy. Workers at that plant encountered asbestos daily as it was long used in the manufacture of brake pads, clutches, and other friction products.