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French Lawmaker Murder Trial Begins

May 4, 1998

DRAGUIGNAN, France (AP) _ Under heavy security, seven men went on trial Monday for the 1994 slaying of a lawmaker who crusaded against corruption in southern France.

Attackers on a motorcycle shot Yann Piat three times Feb. 25, 1994, as she was being driven near her home in Mont des Oiseaux near the port city of Toulon.

Among the defendants are the two men who prosecutors say were on the motorcycle, Lucien Ferri, 26, the alleged gunman, and the driver, Marco Di Caro, 25.

They were arrested June 17, 1994, along with four alleged accomplices _ Stephane Chiarisoli, 25, Olivier Tomassone, 23, Stephane Guechguech, 25, and Romain Gressler, 23.

Investigators also arrested Gerard Finale, 53, the alleged mastermind of the killing and the owner of a restaurant in the nearby port of Hyeres.

The trial, expected to last about five weeks, is to include testimony from two former Cabinet ministers and other officials.

For the trial, about 150 national police were deployed around the courthouse in this southern town. A police helicopter patrolled overhead.

Piat had campaigned against what she called ``a culture of corruption″ in the area. She also likely made enemies by switching from the far-right National Front to the conservative Republican Party.

In a Jan. 22, 1992, letter, Piat said that ``in case of a fatal accident,″ it would be opportune to question Maurice Arreckx, former mayor of Toulon and president of the local General Council until 1994.

Arreckx, 80, is among those scheduled to testify May 14. He is in jail while under formal investigation for alleged embezzlement.

Former Defense Minister Francois Leotard and former Urban Affairs Minister Jean-Claude Gaudin _ are to testify for the defense on May 15.

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