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Hollande 'pardons' woman jailed for murder of violent husband

French President Francois Hollande has granted a limited pardon to a woman serving a 10-year jail sentence for killing her violently abusive husband. Hundreds of thousands had signed a petition demanding her release.

Hollande's decision - granting a partial rather than full pardon - came two days after Hollande met Sauvage's three grown daughters.

Sauvage had been married to Norbert Marot, a violent alcoholic, for almost 50 years. During that time, she said, he raped and beat her and her three daughters and also abused her son.

Sauvage shot her husband three times in the back with a rifle on September 10, 2012, the day after her son hanged himself. She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2014.

The conviction - which was upheld by an appeals court in December - still stands, but Hollande's use of the "presidential prerogative" allows Sauvage to seek immediate parole.

"In the face of an exceptional human situation, the president wanted to make it possible for Madame Savage to quickly return to her family while respecting judicial authorities," the president's office said.

Self-defense appeal rejected

The case had drawn a swell of support from women's groups, politicians and sympathizers, with a petition signed by some 400,000 people.

Alfred Dreyfus Ausstellungstipps 23.06.2006

Perhaps the most famous presidential pardon was that of Alfred Dreyfus

Sauvage's failed appeal had been based on the assertion that her actions were in self-defense. However, French law defines this as being an act seen as proportional and in direct response for an act of aggression, and Sauvage's crime was not considered to meet the criteria.

"We were afraid of him - he terrified us," one daughter told the court. Another described her father's death as a "relief."

The group Osez le Feminisme (Dare To Be Feminist) has urged the expansion of the definition for "female victims of violence."

Hollande has largely distanced himself from the use of presidential pardons, describing them as belonging to "a different concept of power."

One of the most famous cases of presidential pardon in France was that of Alfred Dreyfus in 1899. The Jewish army officer's conviction for treason - later found to have been false - became seen as a symbol of injustice and anti-Semitism.

rc/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters)