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Rainbow Warrior bombers try to censor NZ TV  

Andy Newman


As the twentieth anniversary approaches of a French terrorist bombing in New Zealand, the two agents convicted of the bombing have launched a court case that activists believe is funded by the French government to censor New Zealand Television.

In July, 1985 two bombs ripped apart the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour, killing Greenpeace photographer, Fernando Pereira. Eventually, two French Intelligence agents were charged and convicted of the attack against the international environmental group. Those two agents this week lodged an appeal in New Zealand against a High Court ruling which allowed parts of their 1985 trial to be broadcast on NZ television.

According to journalist, Karon Snowdon, a deal between France and New Zealand prevented full investigation of  who else was involved and from how high up the orders came. The conviction of just two of the five or more agents involved never satisfied the public.

The government denials and obstruction from Paris were made worse when the two, Alain Mafart and Dominque Prieur, although sentenced to ten years jail in New Zealand for manslaughter, served less than a year. Under French threats of economic sanctions, the New Zealand government agreed to international mediation.  As a result, the French government paid 13 million dollars in compensation and was allowed to remove the agents to a French military base in French Polynesia whose commander was Prieur's husband. There they were to spend three years but were released and returned to Paris about 18 months later where they were hailed by some as heroes.

State run New Zealand Television is planning a documentary to mark the anniversary, which it says will throw fresh light on important aspects of the Rainbow Warrior affair. Just last week it won a long running High Court battle to use segments from the closed circuit TV film of some of the court proceedings from back in 1985. It shows Mafart and Prieur pleading guilty to their role in the Rainbow Warrior attack. But now the two agents have lodged an appeal against the release of the footage.

Executive Producer of TV New Zealand's Sunday Program, Damien Comerford told Australian ABC radio "it's a matter of public record that they pleaded guilty. But there's one thing writing about it and another seeing it. And I think the seeing it is certainly got up the nose of the French Government. I can't for one minute imagine that Mafart and Prieur are funding these court actions out of their own pocket.  I think you could make a fair bet and say that the French Government is clearly paying the legal costs of both these two former DGSE agents. I mean it is a matter of public were they clearly guilty, but when you see two former secret service agents, two members of the French DGSE actually saying on camera that "we are guilty of an act of terrorism" is a great loss of faith to the French Government. We've got new information, new and substantial information that the public had not heard before and when they do hear it I think they'll be quite amazed"

Executive director of Greenpeace New Zealand, Margaret Crozier said: "Greenpeace would quite welcome an apology from the French Government and we would like them to actually look at the rights of other people to know what their activities have led to, because people in the Pacific have suffered from the nuclear tests and there have been 120 nuclear tests in the Pacific over the decade. These agents have forgone the right to appeal against the release of the trial film on privacy grounds, having published books of their own and because of the public interest."

Damien Comerford reminds us: "Let's not forget that not only was a boat sunk, but a man died"


June 2005


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