24 Apr 2008

New Caledonia court acquits Wallisian man of murder in St Louis shooting

1:37 pm on 24 April 2008

A court in New Caledonia has acquitted a Wallisian man, Laurent Vili, who was being tried for the murder of a Kanak man during the ethnic tension in Saint Louis in January 2002.

Mr Vili, who plays rugby for the French side Nimes, was accused of shooting a 26-year old Kanak, Jean-Marie Goyeta, during a gunfight between Kanaks and Wallisians.

Mr Goyeta was wounded and he died a month later in hospital.

The prosecution wanted Mr Vili to be given a five-year suspended jail sentence.

He had been arrested in France nearly six years ago and spent a year in jail as part of the investigation.

A policeman testifying in the case described the violence akin to the tension seen in Ivory Coast and Kosovo.