21 Apr 2008

Wallisian rugby player in New Caledonia murder trial

1:32 pm on 21 April 2008

A Wallisian man who plays for the French rugby side Nimes, Laurent Vili, is due to appear in a New Caledonian court today accused of the murder of a Kanak man during ethnic tension in Saint Louis in January 2002.

During a gunfight between Kanaks and Wallisians, a 26-year old Kanak, Jean-Marie Goyeta, was wounded and he died a month later in hospital.

Eight months after the incident, Laurent Vili, who is originally from Wallis, was arrested in the French city of Montpellier where he was playing rugby accused of being the gunman.

He was transferred to New Caledonia where he was jailed for a year but then released on condition he stayed outside New Caledonia.

His lawyers are confident that they can prove his innocence but they say they fear he will be sacrificied to keep the peace.

Security will be tight around the court amid concern ethnic tensions could flare.