Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Papeete prosecutor pushes press case in Paris

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Papeete prosecutor pushes press case in Paris

A cartoon features in a criminal defamation case pursued by French authorities against a long time Tahiti editor and his magazine.

"True justice, like the can-can, only happens in Paris," reads the cartoon, of a justice official pushing court files to the sides, including one marked JPK.

Former Papeete editor, Jean Pascal Couraud, known as JPK, disappeared in 1997 with police marking his dossier "suicide."


Allegations were made in 2004 by a secret agent that, instead of suicide, Couraud had been abducted by secret agents, tortured and killed.

Hearings on 19th May into the defamation claim relate to a January 2007 cover of Tahiti Pacifique magazine headlined, "Yes, JPK was assassinated."

A decision is due 23 June 2009, reports Rue89.


More recently, in April this year, Tahiti Pacifique reported that a "surprise witness" had appeared before the JPK investigating magistrate, Jean-François Redonnet.

Claiming to have seen a white van being used in the 1997 kidnapping of Jean-Pascal Couraud, the witness was quoted as saying the abduction was "of such violence and speed that I was shocked".

Anti-corruption website Bakchich – French for baksheesh or bribery – reported that Tahiti Pacifique editor Alex du Prel pointed widespread allegations of assassination at GIP, a presidential security operation, Groupement d'intervention de la Polynésie.


Pape'ete prosecutor Jean Bianconi lodged the case in the 17th criminal chamber of Paris superior courts, 17e chambre correctionnelle du Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, said to specialise in press cases.

Naming himself, his deputy and a judge formerly in charge of the JPK case as complainants, Bianconi filed the case in October 2007, some ten months after publication.

The case was filed in Paris "on the sly," claims du Prel in a letter to colleagues on 17 May 2009. Du Prel testified via video link according to Radio New Zealand International with Agence Tahiti Presse reporting damages sought of 5,000 euros for each complainant, for a total of €15,000.


Like other French media, Tahiti Pacifique extensively reported links between the disappearance of Couraud and allegations of corruption involving former French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse, and former French president Jacques Chirac, godfather to his grandson.

In the January 2007 story, Bianconi is not named but objected to the following paragraph:

"… certainly the image of impartiality of justice in Tahiti, like the police, is rough; disastrous for a functioning democracy. Some judges of the Papeete judiciary also admit a 'tense' and 'low morale at the Palace [of Justice].' Is this because a senior judge might think you invested in a 'divine mission' to orchestrate a scheme (in which some judges agree to participate) to protect by all means the former GIP and its leader, Rere Puputauki, who, if convicted, could endanger the senator Flosse, which in turn could endanger 'the highest levels of the State?' …"


Du Prel criticised the holding of the hearing in Paris, some 16,000 kilometres from his home office in Moorea.

"Imagine the outcry in France if the prosecutor assigned the editor of a Paris magazine before the criminal court in Papeete, on the pretext that three copies would be sold in Tahiti. This is a process used in the past by a vicious few to take revenge against book publishers, never the press."

Defending him, Claire Doubliez sought to supply context by outlining what Rue89 describes as a "staggering array" of cases involving delays to justice in Polynesia.

"The background to this case is the fact that the functioning of the judiciary in Papeete is, obviously, a concern," said Doubliez in a statement to the court. 

"I think the case goes beyond the scope of defamation," she said.
 "The prosecution held that a single passage was defamatory. For others, this was not the case," said Doubliez , adding it was the professional journalistic duty of Alex du Prel to denounce justice procedures not normal at the time of the article.


In the national assembly in Paris, opposition Socialist parliamentarian René Dosiere attacked the defamation claim when it was lodged last year.


"Justice, in Polynesia, in this case the prosecutor, is much more ready to attack the director of an independent newspaper, Tahiti Pacific Magazine, that continues to denounce fraud and the silence of justice in Polynesia, stressing that justice is smooth for the powerful and hard for the weak. Thus, in Polynesia, most importantly, justice is not to tackle corruption, but those who expose corruption."


Bianconi has been widely linked with former president Jacques Chirac, justice officials well known for openly supporting one political side or another, as is also common in another republican system, America.




French media note that Bianconi came from presiding over an appeal court in Aix-en-Provence, accepting an apparent demotion to the prosecutor's office at a time when Flosse was facing awkward questions over payments to ghost workers.


Bianconi is due to leave Pape'ete next month.


Like many others throughout French foreign services, Bianconi hails from Corsica, an island infamous as the birthplace of the French mafia, operating mostly out of Marseille since the second world war.




Similar to the Italian mafia and American secret services during and after the war, numerous media and official investigations have drawn links between the French mafia – or "Milieu" – and the French equivalent of the CIA.


DGSE stands for the Directorate General of External Security. Training of DGSE agents included a base in Corsica.


In 1997, two agents retired several months before JPK disappeared to head the setting up of a surveillance section within the Flosse government, 'retirement' also being a term common among secret services on top secret missions.


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