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Convicted French Spy Returns Home Amid Protests

December 15, 1987

PARIS (AP) _ One of two French espionage agents confined to a Pacific atoll after being convicted in New Zealand of complicity in the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was flown to Paris Monday for medical tests.

New Zealand called it an ″outrageous″ breach of a U.N.-mediated agreement.

A French Foreign Ministry statement said Maj. Alain Mafart, 35, was flown home because his complaint of severe stomach pains left no time for a formal decision by New Zealand.

Under the United Nations’ agreement that took effect July 1986, Mafart and his convicted accomplice, Capt. Dominique Prieur, 36, were to be confined for three years at the French military base on Hao atoll and could not leave without the mutual consent of France and New Zealand.

The two agents had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a New Zealand court in the case of the bombing of the environmental group’s flagship on July 10, 1985, in Auckland harbor that killed a Greenpeace photographer.

When French agents mined the Rainbow Warrior, it was preparing to lead a flotilla of boats protesting French nuclear testing on the Pacific atoll of Mururoa. New Zealand has regularly protested the French nuclear tests.

France had refused permission for a New Zealand military plane to land on Hao with a doctor to examine Mafart.

Prime Minister David Lange of New Zealand, at a news conference Tuesday in Wellington, repeated his angry denunciation of the French evacuation of Mafart.

″The condition is not life threatening and does not fit into such a medical emergency category that warranted an immediate evacuation,″ he said.

He called the conference after a London-based New Zealand doctor, Richard Croxson, examined Mafart in a Paris hospital.

″There is confirmation that Mafart has suffered from, and suffered for some considerable time, from substantial stomach pains,″ Lange said.

He also said he would send Croxson’s report to the United Nations and ″we will then wait to see what further develops.″

Any diplomatic reprisals against France should be carried out by the United Nations, Lange said, adding: ″But even that depends on the respect a sovereign nation has for its written commitment to the terms of the adjudication and the respect they have for the (U.N.) secretary-general and for the United Nations.″

Lange said Monday that moving Mafart from Hao was a ″blatant and outrageous″ breach of the agreement. He said he sent formal diplomatic complaints to French Premier Jacques Chirac and Javier Perez de Cuellar, secretary-general of the United Nations.

Chirac told a diplomatic press luncheon Monday that Mafart’s illness, ″certified by incontestable medical authorities,″ justified his ″automatic″ return to mainland France. The New Zealand doctor would ″have access to the patient and his dossier″ to verify that, he said.

The French Foreign Ministry statement did not state Mafart’s ailment, saying only that the Defense Ministry was alerted Dec. 7 about his health and on Dec. 11 demanded his immediate repatriation.

″I cannot understand at all why the New Zealand government is surprised,″ Defense Minister Andre Giraud said Monday, adding he felt sure it would have acted similarly to protect its officers’ welfare.

Giraud, who was in London, said that Hao was off-limits to foreigners. He said New Zealand’s request for a doctor to go there via Tahiti, then return before an evacuation decision was made, would have taken too much time.

″This delay could have taken several days and was, therefore, incompatible with the medical emergency,″ said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean Gueguinou.

The controversy arose two days after the patched and rusted Rainbow Warrior was towed out to sea and sunk as a memorial.

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