By Gérard Bon
PARIS (Reuters) - Almost 20 years after the badly beaten body of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found near her holiday home in Ireland, British journalist Ian Bailey is to be charged with her murder in a French court, her family's lawyer said.
Bailey was arrested twice by the Republic of Ireland's police in connection with her death, but was never charged. He later brought court libel cases and complaints against the Garda, newspapers and others.
In 2012, he won an appeal against extradition to France in part, according to the Irish Times, because French authorities failed to specify that the arrest was for the purpose of charging him.
On July 27 a French investigating judge signed an instruction for a murder trial to take place, the lawyer representing Toscan du Plantier's family, Alain Spillaert, said. The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed the judge's instruction.
Bailey has always denied any involvement in Toscan du Plantier’s death.
Bailey's lawyer, Frank Buttimer, said Bailey would "resist any attempt to remove him from the jurisdiction (Ireland)" and that Ireland's Supreme Court had already ruled he could not be extradited to France to face such a charge.
"If the Irish Supreme Court decision is upheld, which it should be, my understanding is that what I would describe as a 'show trial' will take place in France in the absence of Mr Bailey," Buttimer told Reuters by phone.
Spillaert said the trial would take place even if Bailey was able to fight extradition.
"We could end up with a trial by default but it is nevertheless an important step for the family," he said.
Toscan du Plantier, whose husband Daniel was also a producer and worked with renowned film-makers including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, was killed while on holiday in the small coastal village of Schull, in southwestern Ireland, in December 1996.
Her murder shocked Ireland and cast a shadow over the idyllic rural setting of Schull, a popular hideaway for wealthy English, French and German expatriates.
(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Heavens)