20 Apr 2011

French Polynesia's biggest trial adjourned over constitutionality clause

7:03 am on 20 April 2011

The biggest trial in French Polynesia's history, involving 87 defendants, was adjourned shortly after it opened in Papeete's criminal court.

The case centres on allegations that in the 1990s a veteran politician, Gaston Flosse, began misspending millions of dollars of public funds by keeping journalists, unionists, clergymen and other officials on his administration's payroll to support his political party.

At the trial's opening yesterday, his lawyer invoked a new French constitutionality clause to challenge the accusations which has prompted the court to adjourn the case until today.

The court will then say whether the challenge stands.

Should it be accepted, the case will go to France's highest court to determine whether the accusations are in line with the Human Rights Declaration.

Last month, one of Mr Flosse's lawyers acting for the former French president, Jacques Chirac, used the same clause to give him a reprieve on charges of channelling public money into phantom jobs for political cronies while he was the mayor of Paris.