15 Dec 2006

Judiciary criticised over 1997 disappearance of French Polynesian journalist

4:29 pm on 15 December 2006

Reporters Without Borders are attacking the French Polynesian judiciary over delays in handling the case of missing Tahiti journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud.

The international body says in a statement that the authorities can't dismiss the theory that he was assassinated because of his work as an investigative journalist.

It has condemned the lack of progress in the case and urged the judiciary to investigate how and why Mr Couraud vanished in 1997.

Reports Without Borders claims that several key witnesses have not been heard and that the judge in charge of the case, Philippe Stelmach, has asked to be relieved of the file.

The journalist's brother, Philippe Couraud, says the family lodged a complaint two years ago.

"At this moment we don't know anything about this because its not possible for us to discuss with the judge for about 10 months now and we don't know anything about whats going on."

Mr Couraud says the family is convinced that his brother was killed by members of the GIP intervention group, which was set up by the then president, Gaston Flosse.