- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

RENNES, France An American suspected in the killing of a New York doctor who performed abortions has decided to return to the United States to prove his innocence, his lawyer said yesterday.

James Kopp is charged with the October 1998 sniper-style killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home near Buffalo, N.Y. He was arrested in the western French city of Dinan in March 2001 after a 21/2-year search.

Mr. Kopp, 47, has decided not to fight extradition to the United States, saying he wants to clear his name. He formally waived his right to appeal an extradition ruling yesterday morning.

"I am innocent," Mr. Kopp said in a statement released by his French lawyer, Herve Rouzaud-Le Boeuf. "I want my innocence recognized as soon as possible."

Then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin signed an order on March 22 allowing Mr. Kopp to be returned home for trial. No extradition date has been set.

In June, a French court recommended that Mr. Kopp be extradited to the United States. The court based its recommendation on assurances that the U.S. government would not seek the death penalty.

However, Mr. Kopp still had the possibility of appealing the case to France's Council of State. The 60-day deadline for Mr. Kopp to act was extended until June 2 because of a delay in serving the order.

Mr. Kopp is being held in Rennes, capital of France's Brittany region, about 30 miles north of where he was caught in Dinan.

Mr. Kopp has been indicted on a state murder charge and federal charges in connection with the death of Dr. Slepian, an obstetrician who provided abortions.

Mr. Kopp is also wanted by Canadian authorities on charges of shooting and wounding three doctors there.

Investigators say it was Mr. Kopp who hid behind Dr. Slepian's home Oct. 23, 1998, and killed the doctor with a single shot from a high-powered rifle fired through a kitchen window.

Mr. Kopp, known as "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles, disappeared 11 days later. U.S. investigators believe he fled first to New York City, then New Jersey, Ireland and France.

In his statement, Mr. Kopp said he wanted his innocence proved based on investigations "carried out since my arrest by my lawyers."

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