FRENCH GIFT PLANS FOR RAINBOW WARRIOR BOMBERS REVEALED

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (March 25, 2001 – New Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---French politicians tried to shower their secret service agents with gifts just weeks after they were jailed for the Rainbow Warrior bombing, New Zealand's biggest newspaper has revealed.

The New Zealand Herald said a previously top-secret dossier shows that a diplomatic spat broke out. New Zealand prison officials refused to give Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur the Christmas gifts sent from Paris, the Herald said.

It came just after the pair were jailed for the 1985 attack in Auckland in which a Greenpeace photographer was killed as the French tried to stop protesters sailing to their nuclear test site at Moruroa, French Polynesia.

The New Zealand Herald revealed that French External Relations Minister Roland Dumas sent the agents a case of Bordeaux region wine for Christmas. The bottles were from his own vineyard.

Another French MP sent them a bottle of the finest cognac.

Mr. Dumas was upset when he found out that prison authorities had rejected the gifts, the New Zealand Herald said.

His complaint, sent via the New Zealand Embassy in Paris in January 1986, was knocked back with a terse response informing him that the pair would not be given special treatment.

"Alcoholic beverages are under no circumstances allowed into New Zealand prisons," said a cable to Paris. "Our authorities could not permit an exception in a matter which is so sensitive in New Zealand."

The incident is revealed among hundreds of boxes of Department of Justice papers released in Wellington and obtained by the New Zealand Herald under the Official Information Act.

The New Zealand Herald said the papers also revealed security plans drawn up to protect Mafart and Prieur from assassination and prevent them from being snatched by fellow agents before they could be tried.

Anti-terrorist experts wanted the pair shielded by 51 mm-thick bulletproof glass in court, though this proposal was eventually rejected, the papers showed.

The plans included specially reinforced police wagons to transport the pair to court. Commercial armored vans were considered but abandoned when it was discovered they could be penetrated by .303 rifle fire.

The forgotten files show how Prieur, in particular, caused problems for justice officials, who had to spend more than $25,000 improving security at Christchurch Women's Prison.

Authorities were so wary of her that a special order had to be issued when she asked for the use of a skipping rope. Prieur was given permission to skip but prison superintendent Jack Allen ordered that the rope be taken from her as soon as she had finished. The order did not say if it was feared she would hurt herself or others.

Other papers show security concerns had led to Prieur being moved from Mt. Eden to the Ardmore military prison while she was on remand "in the interests of her security and proper protection."

An Auckland District Court official set out the fear of "a rescue or elimination attempt" against the agents, and pleaded for increased security arrangements for the depositions hearing, the New Zealand Herald said.

Justice officials quickly prepared the old High Court building for the court proceedings that followed.

Mafart and Prieur pleaded guilty to manslaughter in November 1985 and were sentenced to 10 years' jail.

They were transferred to a French military facility on Hao Atoll in July 1986 to complete their sentences. But both were back in France within two years.

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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