Jacqueline Sauvage receives presidential pardon and is released from prison in ‘strong message’ to domestic abuse victims.
A French woman who was convicted of murdering her allegedly violent husband has been freed from prison after a second intervention from the country’s president.
Two hours after François Hollande gave her a complete pardon, Jacqueline Sauvage, 69, was seen leaving a prison southeast of Paris after spending more than three years behind bars.
Hollande had issued a partial pardon at the end of January, but the courts twice rejected applications for her release. The case drew public attention to the issue of domestic abuse.
Two different juries had sentenced Sauvage to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting her husband, Norbert Marot, three times in the back with a hunting rifle in 2012.
During the trials in 2014 and 2015, Sauvage said her late husband had beaten her for 47 years. The couple’s adult daughters also claimed Marot had abused them. Neither Sauvage nor the daughters ever filed a complaint against him.
The three women said they were too humiliated to seek help and instead suffered violence that included sexual abuse silently behind closed doors.
In a statement, the Elysée Palace said Hollande decided: “The place of Ms. Sauvage was no longer in prison, but with her family.”
Women’s rights advocates, politicians and sympathisers around France had mobilised to support Sauvage, with a petition calling for her to be pardoned signed by hundreds of thousands.
Nathalie Tomasini, one of Sauvage’s lawyers, told RTL radio the pardon was a “very strong message sent by François Hollande to all women victims of domestic violence.”
Actress Éva Darlan, who chairs a support committee that advocated for Sauvage, said on BFM television that the presidential pardon is a “strong gesture toward men who hit [women]”.
In January, Hollande granted a partial pardon to Sauvage, allowing her to seek parole. But two more courts made up of professional magistrates refused to free her. The president of the main union of French magistrates said Hollande made a “deplorable” decision “to please the public and to respond to a media request.”
“It is a political decision … that challenges the functioning of our institutions,” Virginie Duval said on BFM.
The French constitution allows a president to pardon convicts and to reduce prison sentences.