13 Jan 2015

Kidnapping charges upheld over Tahiti journalist death

1:27 pm on 13 January 2015

An investigative judge in French Polynesia has upheld charges against three men accused of kidnapping that led to the subsequent death of a journalist, Jean-Pascal Couraud, in 1997.

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Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel

This has been confirmed by a committee, involving the journalist's family, who lodged a police complaint for murder in 2004 when allegations surfaced that he had been assassinated by the now disbanded presidential GIP militia.

The three suspects, Rere Puputauki, Tino Mara and Tutu Manate, are alleged to have jointly abducted the journalist in 1997 and dumped his body at sea.

When they were detained for questioning two years ago, their homes were bugged but the recordings of the reported discussions have been deemed inadmissible by France's highest court because they violated the men's privacy.

The committee says although the ruling is regrettable, the renewed charges are expected to lead to a trial next year.

At the time of his disappearance in 1997, Jean-Pascal Couraud worked as a media advisor for an opposition politician, Boris Leontieff, who also vanished without a trace when his plane disappeared on a campaign trip in the Tuamotus in 2002.

The GIP was under the control of the president at the time, Gaston Flosse, who told the territorial assembly he never ordered anybody's death.

His lawyers have said it it is more likely that yeti existed than Mr Couraud was killed.