Jail sought for former French Polynesian president
Jail sought for former French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse for illegal spying and abuse of public funds.
The prosecution in French Polynesia's espionage trial has requested a two-year jail sentence for the disgraced former president, Gaston Flosse, for espionage and abusing public funds.
The trial dealt with the intelligence service that Flosse had at his disposal until 2004 - the year he lost power when the so-called Taui, or change, ended Flosse's long reign.
A verdict in this latest court case is due in June but even if convicted, 83-old Flosse is unlikely to be sent to prison because of his age.
Walter Zweifel reports.
Flosse's defence lawyer says the case should never have gone to trial and the eight accused who were summoned in Papeete this week should have been left alone.
After failing to get the trial called off, Francois Quinquis told local television that his client had done nothing wrong.
FRANCOIS QUINQUIS: The term espionage is totally inappropriate. You could maybe have a view about intelligence but again, political intelligence is, quite obviously, not forbidden.
The trial had two aspects.
Firstly, whether Flosse broke the law by setting up an espionage service as such an institution is under French law within the domain of the state.
And secondly, the court was to establish whether there was an abuse of public funds to run the spy agency.
The trial also wraps an era, during which Flosse reached the apex of his power.
A former journalist and politician, Sabrina Birk, has strong feelings about that time.
SABRINA BIRK: This is what he did the worst to our people, was to intimidate us and to try and keep us silent so that we don't do our job as a journalist, that we don't find the truth, that we don't express our freedom.
A trigger for the case was Alex du Prel, who is the publisher of the Tahiti Pacifique monthly, with reports about spying.
This prompted complaints to the police for invasion of privacy from those believed to be targetted, such as the pro-independence politician Oscar Temaru and a local lawyer, Stanley Cross.
But then suddenly, they dropped their complaint as Alex du Prel explains.
ALEX DU PREL: Around 2007, 2008, Mr Flosse and Mr Temaru got together and formed a government, they kissed each other on the lips and Mr Temaru and Mr Cross took away their complaint.
But the police investigation was underway.
In court, the case was built on statements that police compiled over nearly ten years when questioning the 19 members of what was officially termed a documentation service.
Alex du Prel:
ALEX DU PREL: The funny thing about this trial is that all the proof that is being presented by the court are all the statements that the members of this supposedly illegal spy service are the best foundation to prove that there was such illegality.
The court heard that from the building of the now disbanded GIP militia, the agency placed under surveillance Flosse's political rivals, journalists and even Flosse's mistresses.
Among other things, Mr du Prel says, he found out that his fax machine was tapped and that the agency even tapped top French officials.
ALEX DU PREL: What can you do? They have the means, they control the Post Office and so on. And I testified under the head of the French Renseignements Generaux, which is equal to the French Surveillance Service. And the Director of this service who had just arrived, he told me, when I had my lines verified I realised there was a tap on my fax, by the.., done in the Post Office in Tahiti by the Tahitian Government.
The prosecution says the French constitution guarantees certain liberties to individuals and media people, which were breached.
It also says Flosse was not in charge of a state and therefore not allowed to have an intelligence service.
The snooping entailed for Mr du Prel for example that he was followed every time he went to town, presumably for the agents to see who he met or who his informants could be.
Flosse's lawyer, Francois Quinquis, told local television, the agency was not interested in Mr du Prel
FRANCOIS QUINQUIS: What is of interest to the court is the workings of the agency and it's not the intrusion into the private life of Mr du Prel.
As of the workings of the agency, it was set up with the knowledge of France which is responsible for the rule of law.
Alex du Prel:
ALEX DU PREL: The two guys that were, that set up the service and were running it, Yhuel and Micheloni, and these two men were in the, what they call the Service Action of the DGSE. That means they were in the dirty tricks department of the French Secret Service.
Alex du Prel says the two, Mr Yhuel and Mr Micheloni, were part of the special French intelligence unit responsible for the 1985 terror attack on the Rainbow Warrior ship in New Zealand.
Mr du Prel says when the taui, the big change happened, the agency got rid of its records.
ALEX DU PREL: They produced testimony that it took them three days to burn stuff in a drum, all the photos, documents and so on, all the equivalent was put in a van and there are several testimonies to that effect.
This also meant that for the expenditure of about ten million US dollars, the documentation service, could not produce anything of its efforts.
As part of this long-running case, Flosse was convicted for obstructing the examination three years ago and he was fined 16,000 US dollars for destroying the evidence.
Mr du Prel says the defence lawyer considered the case to be ridiculous.
ALEX DU PREL: Here we find out that New Zealand has been listening to all the phone calls of Mr Flosse and even of his maid. And this is ridiculous this court case.
The prosecution wants Flosse to be jailed for two years but as an 83-year old he won't be sent to prison.
It has been noted that the territorial government didn't join the case as a party to claim restitution of the money, which the prosecution says was spent illegally.
Mr du Prel says the trial has been littered with challenges and it may have repercussions for quite some time.
ALEX DU PREL: This is a very complex case. And there are many errors of procedure in it that were brought up by the lawyers of Mr Flosse at the beginning. So he might be condemned in the first instance. Then you will go to the Appeal Court who might recognise all these many procedural errors.
The court says its verdict will be out on June the 23rd.
Should Flosse get convicted, it won't have much impact because he is already banned from public office because of a corruption conviction given last year.
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