A French court has convicted in absentia two top Djibouti officials of bribing a witness in a probe into the 1995 murder of a French judge. (Report: K.Spencer)
Djibouti's attorney general and secret service chief were sentenced to jail terms in absentia by a French court Thursday for bribing witnesses in a probe into the 1995 murder of a French judge.
Attorney general Djama Suleiman and intelligence chief Hassad Said were found guilty of bribing two key witnesses to discredit testimony suggesting that Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh ordered Bernard Borrel's killing.
The court in Versailles west of Paris handed them sentences of 18 months and one year respectively, and upheld international arrest warrants against them.
Borrel's half-burned body was found at the foot of a ravine 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the town of Djibouti in October 1995.
His widow Elisabeth Borrel believes her husband was murdered by Djibouti agents and that France helped the Djibouti authorities cover up the crime, which has been officially dismissed as suicide in the Horn of Africa country.
French magistrates investigating at the request of Borrel's widow found that the judge could have been murdered, and the arrest warrants for Souleiman and Said in 2006.
Defence lawyer Francis Szpiner attacked the ruling as biased, saying "my clients will never appear before this court."
But a lawyer for Borrel's widow, Olivier Morice, said it was a "great victory".
"From now on, we must consider that the attorney general and the head of the secret services in Djibouti are considered delinquents wanted for arrest by the French judiciary."
Relations between France and Djibouti -- home to the largest French overseas military base -- are increasingly strained over the affair, with angry demonstrations in the Djibouti capital in protest at the French probe.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who came to office in May last year, promised to help Borrel's widow find the truth.
Date created : 2008-03-27