NOUMÉA TRIBUNAL FINES LAFLEUR FOR SLANDER AGAIN

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NOUMÉA TRIBUNAL FINES LAFLEUR FOR SLANDER AGAIN

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (March 1, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---A Nouméa court Tuesday found New Caledonia's anti-independence leader Jacques Lafleur guilty of slander and defamation, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

A court already fined Lafleur last year on the same charge when Bruno Van Peteghem, president of a local neighborhood association, sued the anti-independence leader for public insults.

Van Peteghem was campaigning against one of Lafleur's development projects that threatened to evict current tenants in order to build a new luxury residential subdivision near one of Nouméa's bays.

Lafleur publicly called Van Peteghem a "little bastard," a "little crook" and a "procedural person."

Lafleur was found guilty of slander and defamation and fined 300,000 CFP (US$ 2,336), plus another 300,000 CFP in damages.

Lafleur has described the original verdict as "serious malfunctions" within New Caledonia's judiciary.

The prominent leader then announced his intention to resign as a member from the French National Assembly.

He withdrew his threat a few days later after his party, RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia Within the French Republic), organized a rally urging him not to resign.

But he also repeated the defamatory statements against Van Peteghem.

Lafleur has been fined 400,000 French Pacific Francs (CFP, around US$3,200) and another 500,000 (US$4,200) in damages caused to the victim.

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