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Union wants leader released from jail

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, August 3, 2009) – Police in New Caledonia now say 27 officers were injured in yesterday’s clashes with striking USTKE union members in the northern town of Kone.

The violence followed a week-long protest, which has seen the unionists cut off access to the prefecture’s s administration building in Kone and blocking the provincial road.

Police used tear gas to try to dislodge the up to 200 protestors who threw rocks and steel balls, breaking a leg of one officer and a finger of another.

In Noumea, several business have again been blockaded by USTKE supporters, with some employers staging a counter demonstration.

This comes after a week of daily confrontations with heavily armed security forces in and around the city as the union is campaigning for the release of the jailed USTKE leadership.

The incidents are related to a labour dispute at the domestic airline which escalated into rioting in May that led to the union leaders’ arrests, conviction and imprisonment.

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