25 Apr 2008

Anger among Kanaks over acquittal of Wallisian man in New Caledonia

1:38 pm on 25 April 2008

There has been an outburst of anger in New Caledonia after a court acquitted a Wallisian man, Laurent Vili, accused of murdering a Kanak man during the ethnic tension in Saint Louis in January 2002.

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

The Kanaks of St Louis near Noumea burnt tyres in protest at the ruling, with a banner saying there is no punishment for killing a Kanak.

One resident says 22 Kanaks have been sentenced over the conflict at St Louis while the only Wallisian to be prosecuted has been acquitted.

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.