Media still skeptical about Greenpeace case
PARIS (AP) _ French newspapers, which reported secret service involvement in the Rainbow Warrior sinking for weeks before the government admitted it, remained skeptical Friday that the whole truth had been told.
″Still The Doubts,″ was the banner headline of the independent leftist daily, Liberation.
The centrist weekly L’Express said the secret service had duplicates of important documents on the bombing of the Greenpeace protest ship.
Paul Quiles, the new defense minister, said the originals disappeared. His ministry insisted no duplicates had been made, in accordance with the rules of the the General Directorate for External Security, the service’s official name.
The contents of the documents were not specified.
Gen. Rene Imbot, the new service chief, said on television Friday night that he had discovered a ″veritable effort to destabilize″ the agency, had ″cut off the rotten branches″ and reestablished order. He did not elaborate.
Premier Laurent Fabius confirmed last Sunday what the media alleged: that French agents bombed and sank the environmentalist group’s flagship July 10 at its berth in Auckland, New Zealand, killing a crew member.
The Rainbow Warrior, a converted trawler, was preparing to lead a protest flotilla to the French nuclear test site at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific.
Two French agents held in New Zealand are to go on trial there Nov. 4 on charges of murder and criminal arson.
Fabius said the agents acted on government orders. On Wednesday, he put responsibility for the orders on Defense Minister Charles Hernu and secret service chief Adm. Pierre Lacoste.
Hernu resigned and was replaced by Quiles; Lacoste was fired and Imbot took over his job.
The opposition daily, Le Quotidian de Paris, claimed Friday that approval for the sinking was given in June by a nine-man group including Hernu, Lacoste and other top secret service officials, and senior aides to President Francois Mitterrand including Jean-Louis Bianco, his chief of staff.
Le Quotidian cited ″informed sources″ that it did not identify.
The authoritative daily Le Monde has said the president had no prior knowledge of the plan.
Mitterrand has refused comment on individual allegations. He issued a brief statement Thursday afternoon saying he believed Fabius had made ″the necessary statements to bring light to this affair.″
There were press reports, however, that relations between Mitterrand and Fabius had cooled. Hernu and the president have been close friends for 30 years.
Five military men were charged Thursday with threatening national defense by leaking information to the press about the scandal.
Four were current or former members of the secret service: Col. Joseph Fourrier, 57; Capt. Alain Borras, 34; Warrant-Officer Richard Guillet, 32, and Master-Sergeant Bernard Davier, 27.
The fifth man, Capt. Paul Barril, 39, of the national police, was believed to have acted as intermediary between the press and the four others. The national police force is a branch of the military.
All five were charged with ″revealing information of a nature to harm national defense ... without intention of treason or espionage.″ The maximum penalty is five years in prison.