Suicide watch for Barbie in Bolivian prison

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Prison guards Sunday began a 'suicide watch' over former Nazi Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie because the alleged 'Butcher of Lyon' seemed deeply depressed.

'He looks real bad, and we don't want to take any chances,' said a top official at the La Paz state penitentiary, where Barbie has been confined for six days.


The penitentiary official, who asked that his name be withheld, said Barbie seemed deeply depressed, at times despondent and at other times full of rage. He was being kept in a 20-by-20-foot room where guards are normally housed, the official said.

'We are trying to protect him not just from others but from himself,' he said.

The Bolivian government is expected this week to file new charges against Barbie, 69, including that he helped organize right-wing mercenary squads used by recent military regimes to squelch political opposition.

He also will be charged, possibly Monday, with entering the country illegally in 1952 and obtaining Bolivian citizenship on false grounds, government sources said.

Barbie has been held in jail since Tuesday for failure to pay a $10,000 debt owed the state mining company 13 years ago. The Bolivian supreme court is deciding whether to grant West Germany's request to extradite him.


West Germany and France, which backed the extradition request, maintain Barbie is responsible for the capture, torture and, in many cases, deaths of at least 25,000 Jews and French resistance workers when he was Gestapo chief in Nazi-occupied Lyon, France.

The French newspaper Journal du Dimanche published documents which said Barbie was also directly responsible for the killing of a French resistance leader in 1944.

The documents, provided by French Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, contained accounts by two unnamed German soldiers who saw the resistance leader die, it said.

According to the documents, the resistance leader, known only by his surname Kemmler, died after two days of interrogation which included repeated beatings by Barbie and other Gestapo officers.

The newspaper said the two accounts meant Barbie, if brought to trial in West Germany, could face life imprisonment on charges of direct responsibility for Kemmler's death.

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