French Polynesia's Flosse on verge of losing office
The President of French Polynesia loses an appeal against his sentence on corruption charges.
The political career of the French Polynesian president is now in the hands of the French president.
Gaston Flosse this week lost his appeal to have a sentence for corruption wiped in order to stay in office.
This means he depends now on Francois Hollande granting him a pardon.
Walter Zweifel, who has been following the story, spoke to Don Wiseman.
WALTER ZWEIFEL: Last year, Flosse was convicted in a major corruption case in Tahiti and France's highest court upheld that conviction. So Flosse lost in July. The French government decided not to serve the sentence to make it official, so Flosse has been staying on as president. At the same time he appealed in Tahiti against this sentence and wanted to have it wiped. He also appealed to Francois Hollande to see if he could get a presidential pardon. Hollande has said he will wait for the courts to rule. Flosse now has to see how the French president will act.
DON WISEMAN: How long has this case been going on?
WZ: It goes back to the late 1990s, it's gone on for more than 14 years and every possible delaying tactic has been applied trying to defer any decision. There is a strong notion that the judicial machinery has been partial in the sense that it followed political dictates. A lot of this had been slowed down until 2007, until Nicolas Sarkozy became the president. Since then we've seen an upshot of corruption cases - we've just had a couple in the last few months that the Flosse legal team managed to bat away but the prosecution may get back on that.
DW: Isn't it a concern that the judicial process is seemingly so erratic?
WZ: There are those in the territory who say this is colonial justice. In a sense this is correct as French judges rule in Tahiti. But there is also a notion that there is a two-speed justice - they call it 'justice a deux vitesses' - as some cases, like in the cases of Flosse they go on forever while other issues are dealt with in a flash. There is the example of the Vetea Guilloux case, a former Flosse spy, who came with some outrageous claim about a journalist being killed. He was arrested, tried and jailed within a couple of days. He has been released but his appeal has dragged out for ten years. There is also the case of Pouvanaa a Oopa who is this pro-independence leader of the 1950s who was possibly framed then exiled in a case to be revisited, a case obviously of colonial justice. There is also the sense of incompetence or interference. There is for example the case of Cyril Tetuanui, a convicted mayor who lost his case in Tahiti and went to appeal in Paris. He lost in Paris as well. The verdict never reached him because the court never passed it on to the High Commission to make it official. So after a year that sentenced lapsed and this man is still in office.
DW: In the Flosse case, what are the options?
WZ: The situation is up to a politician. Francois Hollande will be deciding whether the ruling will stand. Flosse is insisting that he is innocent but if he has to go, he is unlikely to go quietly. We have to remember he is well connected to the establishment, not least to the military, and has the potential to embarrass France.
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