DUBLIN (AFP) — Ireland's High Court on Monday rejected a third attempt by the French authorities to extradite a British man in connection with a long-running unsolved murder case.
Ian Bailey was convicted in his absence at a French court last year of killing Sophie Toscan du Plantier, whose body was found outside her holiday home in southern Ireland in 1996.
The victim, who was 39 at the time, was the wife of French film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier. She was found wearing night clothes and had been beaten on the head with a concrete block.
Bailey, who has consistently denied involvement, had been arrested and questioned but never charged in Ireland in connection with the case.
France has now tried three times to have him extradited to face trial.
Judge Paul Burns, sitting at the high court in Dublin, said he did not approve of the latest request for Bailey to serve a 25-year sentence in France.
"I have refused surrender," he told the court, but adjourned the case for two weeks to give lawyers for the French state time to lodge any appeal.
Bailey watched in silence from the back of the court in a navy blazer, tie and blue and white neck scarf as the judge read out his lengthy decision.
Burns said the extradition could not be allowed because while France claims jurisdiction over a murder of its citizen in a foreign country by a foreign national, Ireland does not do the same.
He also said Bailey had "an accrued or vested right" to resist the latest extradition as a result of the previous failed bids.
Outside court Bailey's lawyer Frank Buttimer said his client was "extremely relieved."
"The impact on his life of the entire situation has been extremely challenging for him for the past 24 years," he added.
"He always expresses his sadness and his sympathy for the family of Madame Toscan du Plantier but at the same time always maintaining his innocence."
Buttimer said Bailey would return to his home in County Cork and "attempt to get on with the rest of his life as best he can."
The block on extradition is the latest twist in the saga of du Plantier's death, which has been beset by problems from the start.
Irish prosecutors have criticised the original Irish police investigation as "thoroughly flawed" because of long delays in reaching the crime scene.
Plantier's family denounced the Irish investigation as a "judicial fiasco" and a "denial of justice" in 2014.
by Joe STENSON
© Agence France-Presse