Israel jails French consulate worker for gun smuggling

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An Israeli court on Monday sentenced a former French consulate worker to seven years in prison for smuggling guns from the Gaza Strip after a plea bargain.

Romain Franck, who worked as a driver for the consulate, went on trial after being accused of exploiting reduced security checks for diplomats to smuggle 70 pistols and two automatic rifles from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The plea bargain reached convicted Franck for smuggling 29 pistols after he confessed to most of what he was charged with.

He was also given a fine of 30,000 shekels ($8,000, 7,500 euros) and an 18-month suspended sentence.

Franck’s lawyer Kenneth Mann said he intended to request that he serve his sentence in France.

Mann said the judge was willing to issue a more lenient sentence than might otherwise have been given because Franck, 24, had shown remorse and was motivated by money, not by solidarity with Palestinian militants.

He had no prior criminal record.

Franck, relying on a court interpreter from Hebrew to French, showed no visible reaction when the sentence was announced.

“This is a very, very difficult thing for the whole family of course, but they understand that this is the law and they hope that their son will be returned to France as quickly as possible,” Mann told AFP after Monday’s hearing.

Franck was arrested in February 2018 and his trial began the following month at the district court in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

Israeli officials have said he acted on his own without the consulate’s knowledge and that diplomatic relations with France were not affected.

The Shin Bet internal security agency has said he was paid a total of around $5,500 for the guns he smuggled for a network involving several Palestinians.

Travelers between the two Palestinian territories pass through Israel and are subject to Israeli security controls.

Israeli authorities carry out regular operations to seize weapons in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

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