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French agents unlikely to be charged

Published: 8:39PM Sunday October 01, 2006 Source: One News/Sunday

The French secret service agents who planted the bombs which sunk the Rainbow Warrior are unlikely to be charged by New Zealand police, even if they confess to the crime.

A brother of French presidential hopeful Segolene Royal has been identified as one of two divers who planted the bombs, which killed one person and sank the Greenpeace ship in Auckland in 1985.

The suspected bomber, Gerard Royal, is likely to be one of two men photographed holidaying in the South Island after the bombing. They were only ever identified by New Zealand police by their aliases, Alain Tonel and Jaques Camurier.

Only two French agents, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, were charged in relation to the bombing. Three other men were identified and warrants were issued for their arrest but police were ordered by the government not to extradite one of them when he was arrested by Swiss police in 1991.

Detectives who worked on the case say it would be unlikely any attempt would now be made to charge anyone else.

TVNZ made legal history this week when footage was shown in France of two French agents pleading guilty to manslaughter in 1985.

Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart,  who admitted killing Greenpeace photographer Fernando Periera, failed to stop TVNZ broadcasting their courtroom confessions and viewers have finally been shown the French spies admitting their guilt.

The trial was covered by closed circuit cameras, but the visual record of the proceedings had remained under wraps as the pair fought for their guilty pleas never to be shown on television.

The French have always argued that the privacy of their agents took precedence over the right to freedom of information maintained by Television New Zealand

The former spies took their fight to the Supreme Court which ruled the pair pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1985 in circumstances hard to imagine ever being repeated in this country.

On July 10, 1985, the bombing of the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, resulted in the death of Fernando Periera. At the time the Crown accepted there was not the evidence for a charge other than manslaughter but Periera's daughter Marelle says it was murder.

"My dad has been murdered...I don't see it as manslaughter...I don't see it as accidental killing."

The plea of guilty to manslaughter has been seen as a significant acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of the act of a sabotage which then Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer describes as an unbelievable act.

"It was one of the dumbest things the French government has ever done," says Palmer.

The attack was sanctioned by the Elysee Palace itself, but it was left to the then prime minister Laurent Fabius to admit not only that they did it, but that they then tried to cover it up.

Fabius told Sunday he also felt betrayed, saying: "People had lied to me."

However, for 20 years lawyers for Marfat and Prieur successfully challenged every attempt for media access to air the courtroom images.

The court was told that as part of the defendants were responsible for picking up and removing from the scene one of those responsible for the placing of the explosive devices. Marfat and Prieur were the only bombers captured - the other got away. Sunday tracked down one of those agents, Louis Dillais, who commanded what the French called Operation Satanic.

Now it has been revealed that a brother of French presidential hopeful Segolene Royal planted the bombs on the Greenpeace flagship. Antoine Royal, another brother of Segolene, told the Parisien newspaper his brother Gerard was a member of the French intelligence sabotage squad who planted the bombs on the Rainbow Warrior.

"At the time, (Gerard) was a lieutenant and agent of the DGSE (intelligence agency) in Asia. He was asked in 1985 to go to New Zealand, to Auckland harbour, to sabotage the Rainbow Warrior," Antoine said.

"Later he told me that it was he who planted the bomb on the Greenpeace ship. He took a small craft with a second person to approach the boat."

"He was able to escape the New Zealand authorities, unlike the false Turenge couple who were arrested. My sister learnt that he was present during the operation from a recent article in the press."