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France

Jailed former minister asks for trial secrets to be revealed

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2009-10-30

Charles Pasqua, a former interior minister who was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the 'Angolagate' arms trafficking case, has urged the French authorities to declassify sensitive documents he says will clarify his role in the affair.

 

Jailed former French interior minister Charles Pasqua has called for information relating to the "Angolagate" scandal to be declassified - saying it will both clarify his role in the affair and implicate others at the very top of French politics.

On Wednesday a French court convicted all but six of 42 defendants, including Pasqua, who was given a one-year jail term, in the high-profile arms smuggling trial. Others sentenced include the son of the late President Francois Mitterrand.

The court found that the main players in the case had flouted an international embargo and shipped arms to Angola during its civil war in the 1990s.

The French court also convicted Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkady Gaydamak in absentia for organising the arms sales to the formerly Marxist regime led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is still in power.

But Pasqua insisted in an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Thursday that by lifting the classified status - known as secret défense - on much of the information relating to the affair, high profile figures including former president Jacques Chirac could be implicated.

He said those at the very top, during "François Mitterrand's mandate from 1993 to 1995, then under Jacques Chirac from 1995 to 1998", knew what was going on, mentioning also former prime ministers Édouard Balladur and Alain Juppé.

Pasqua added that by lifting the secret défense – legal injunctions that serve to protect France – the role of businessman Gaydamak (sentenced to six years in prison) as an agent for the French security services would be made public.

He said this information would prove that "the president of the republic knew" and added that ""I hope that Chirac takes his responsibilities."

Pasqua, 82, also claims his legal difficulties "coincide" with the year 2000, when he announced his candidacy to run for the presidency against Jacques Chirac in 2002.

"From that moment, a whole series of actions have been taken to implicate me in Angolagate and other matters," he said.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel said Wednesday that Defence Minister Herve Morin "may consider" lifting the secret défense status on certain materieal relating to the case, without specifying when this might happen.

Secret défense status on information is applied by ministries and only the minister responsible can revoke it.

The use of secret défense has come under the spotlight in this and other cases because of a perception that it is being used not solely for defence of the country, but to protect individuals and businesses.

Former senior Defence Ministry official Pierre Conesa told FRANCE 24: "When you are in a military campaign, contingency plans cannot be revealed and secret défense can be very useful.

"But it should not be [used for protecting] trade secrets or banking secrets."
 

 

Date created : 2009-10-29

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