17 Jul 2013

Tahiti's Puputauki charged over JPK disappearance

5:08 pm on 17 July 2013

More charges have been laid in French Polynesia over the 1997 disappearance of a local journalist, Jean-Pascal Couraud, known as JKP.

The jailed former head of the disbanded GIP militia in French Polynesia, Leonard Puputauki, also known as Rere Puputauki, has been charged with kidnapping.

This comes three weeks after two of his former militia subordinates, Tutu Manate and Tino Mara, were charged with the journalist's murder - nine years after his family lodged a complaint with police.

The journalist's body has never been found but it is alleged the GIP attached breeze blocks on his limbs and drowned him off Tahiti.

Walter Zweifel asked the publisher of the Tahiti-Pacifique monthly Alex du Prel why, as the alleged mastermind, Puputauki was spared a murder charge.

ALEX DU PREL: Yeah, because he wasn't on the boat. So the two persons that have been indicted for kidnapping and murder are the two members of the GIP that were on the boat while Rere was on land. And according to the scenario that one of the witnesses mentioned, they called them up and said, 'Well, the guy is in bad shape. What do we do?' According to this unique testimony Rere would have answered 'Let him go'. They cannot indict him for murder.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: Now, the defence has come out very strongly and suggested that it was more likely that yeti existed than Mr Couraud had been killed. Why such a vehement dismissal of the allegation that this was a murder?

ADP: Well, from the beginning the justice, and this is the former attorney general, interfered, and anything that came up he immediately stonewalled. There have been many other testimonies that have come up since, not direct but indirect, that indicate. And the other matter is that all the responsible people deny they had ever followed and watched the journalists while later on other testimonies of certain people say, 'No, we watched him for months'. Effectively, there seem to be lies in it.

WZ: Is this the end of the investigation, in the sense of having found all possible suspects in this disappearance case?

ADP: No. These names were known all the time. The problem is that this GIP, this militia, was under direct orders of Mr Flosse. So this is why many people think he had this very powerful protection at the time. Now things have changed, the government has changed in Paris, Chirac is not in power anymore. And you still must remember there's a family that lost their father, their son, their husband and so on. And there are many, many contradictory... So the thing is not clear at all. The body never has been found or anything, so it's a very unclear affair, and maybe this will permit to clear it up.