French apology ‘won’t absolve Warrior murder’

An apology from a French secret service frogman who helped blow up the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 does not absolve him and then president Francois Mitterrand of "cold-blooded murder", the ship's captain said Monday.

French apology 'won't absolve Warrior murder'
The Rainbow Warrior boat that was sunk Photo: AFP

Former military diver Jean-Luc Kister on Sunday said sorry for his part in the bombing which killed Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira and sent Greenpeace's converted trawler to the bottom of Auckland harbour.

Pete Willcox, the Rainbow Warrior's skipper on that July night 30 years ago, accepted Kister's apology was genuine but said it should not obscure the harsh truth about the attack.

“I accept the apology, I think it was sincere… I hope that it allows him to sleep better and live his life out,” Willcox told Radio New Zealand.

“But it doesn't change the fact he and his friends — (then) president Mitterrand and everybody that was part of that team, who planned the operation and carried it out, are murderers — that should be part of the story.”

The Rainbow Warrior was docked in New Zealand en route to protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) southeast of Tahiti, when the attack took place.

Kister was working for France's spy agency, the DGSE, which carried out an unprecedented mission to stop Greenpeace by bombing a peaceful protest ship without warning in the waters of a friendly nation.

The DGSE set off two limpet mines on the ship's hull. Pereira rushed below deck to grab his camera gear after the first explosion and drowned.

Willcox rejected Kister's suggestion the photographer's death was accidental, saying he did not believe an elite military dive squad with explosives training could bungle an operation so badly.

Pacific Media Centre director David Robie, who had been working as a journalist on the ship in the lead-up to the attack, said the bombers acted with callous impunity.

“I don't believe there was the slightest concern about the possible casualties and it was a miracle more people didn't die on board that night,” he told AFP.

Two of the agents who took part — Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur — were arrested in New Zealand shortly after the bombing but spent only a short time in jail under a deal reached with France.

Willcox said most of those responsible, including Kister, had never faced justice for their actions.

“Absolutely not, someone was murdered in cold blood,” he said.

“Two people that were part of the team spent a year in jail… No, I don't think justice was ever done. I think that's a ridiculous notion.”

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Greenpeace activists face fine over Eiffel Tower protest

Greenpeace activists who hung a banner from the Eiffel Tower in protest against far-right leader Marine Le Pen should be given €500 fines and suspended sentences, French prosecutors said on Friday.

Greenpeace activists face fine over Eiffel Tower protest
This file photo taken on May 5th shows a banner reading "liberty, equality, fraternity" hung by Greenpeace activists on the Eiffel Tower to protest against the far-right Front National (FN) party. Pho
Demonstrators from the environmental campaign group unfurled the banner which read “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity #Resist” from the iconic tower on May 5 last year, two days before the second round of the election.
The protest was in response to the “crazy situation” which saw the Front National leader reach the run-off vote with the eventual winner Emmanuel Macron, one activist said.
On Friday, nine of the defendants admitted having cut a safety net to carry out the protest but denied having damaged a fence.
Prosecutors asked the courts to hand each activist a three month suspended sentence and a €500 fine for trespassing. The defendants, who refused to offer a DNA sample in custody, should be handed an extra €200 fine, they added.
A Greenpeace spokeswoman said the penalties requested were “particularly severe”.
The group are due to be sentenced next month.