13 Jan 2008

March in support of jailed French Polynesian politician

9:06 pm on 13 January 2008

An estimated 300 people have taken part in a march in Papeete in support of a jailed French Polynesian party leader, Emile Vernaudon, with some saying he is the victim of the system.

Mr Vernaudon of the Aia Api Party has been in prison for more than a month as part of an investigation into the alleged abuse of public funds when he was in charge of the state-owned post and telecommunications company.

The Tahitipresse news agency syas he has been transferred to a hospital after complaining of a heart condition, with him greeting some of his supporters from the hospital window.

Among the supporters were the former president, Gaston Tong Sang, who said while he respected the judiciary, justice should apply to everybody.

He said before Emile Vernaudon, many thought that being mayor, minister of president allowed them to use public funds to help the people.

But now, he says, money must be managed differently.

Attempts to have Mr Vernaudon freed on bail to contest the territorial election in two weeks have been unsuccessful.

His partner, Heifara Izal, has replaced him on the list of candidates which has been drawn up with Mr Tong Sang's To Tatou Aia Party.

Last March, Emile Vernaudon was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for corruption and the criminal court also fined him 15,000 US dollars.