Government Scuttles Legal Action
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ The government today halted court action against three French men allegedly involved in the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, ending a long legal wrangle.
The three - alleged French secret-service agents Gerald Andries, Jean- Michel Bartelo and Roland Verge - had been wanted on charges related to the bombing in Auckland Harbor, which killed a Greenpeace photographer.
The ship was on its way to protest France’s testing of nuclear weapons on Mururoa Atoll.
Attorney-General Paul East’s intervention today followed Tuesday’s announcement by Justice Minister Doug Graham that New Zealand would not extradite Andries, who was arrested in Switzerland on Nov. 23 after authorities there found he was the subject of a six-year-old Interpol warrant.
Andries was released into French custody soon after Graham’s announcement.
″In my opinion, following the decision of (Graham) that New Zealand should not seek the surrender of Andries to face trial ... no good purpose would be served by allowing present criminal charges to remain outstanding,″ East said.
Andries, Bartelo and Verge had been charged with murder, willful damage by means of an explosive and conspiracy to commit arson.
East said his action was the logical consequence of Tuesday’s decision and meant no one would again face charges in the New Zealand courts arising from the Rainbow Warrior bombing.
Two French military agents were caught and confessed to the bombing, New Zealand’s first-ever act of terrorism. But they were subsequently freed from jail after France threatened to block New Zealand’s access to European markets for its vital agricultural products.
Prime Minister Jim Bolger’s National Party administration had already signaled it wasn’t eager to reopen the Rainbow Warrior case. It had a profound effect in underpinning popular support for New Zealand’s anti-nuclear laws.
Those laws, introduced by former Prime Minister David Lange of hte Labor Party, effectively barred visits by U.S. warships and pushed New Zealand out of its formerly close defense relationship with the United States.
The National Party government wants to re-establish links with the United States but is wary of public opinion.