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FRANCE - DJIBOUTI

Djibouti denounces cover-up in judge's death

2 min

Djibouti accused a French court of cover-up after it sentenced two close aides of President Ismael Guelleh for their role in the disappearance of a French judge in 1995. (Report: J. Bonnard, O. Salazar-Winspear)

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Djibouti lashed back Saturday at former colonial power France after a French court sentenced two close aides of President Ismael Omar Guelleh to jail terms in absentia for bribing witnesses in a probe into the 1995 murder of a French judge.

The attorney general Djama Suleiman and intelligence chief Hassad Said were found guilty of bribing two key witnesses to discredit testimony suggesting that Guelleh had 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.

A statement from Guelleh's office accused Paris of covering up the "real reason for Bernard Borrel's death, whose origin lies in crimes of paedophilia committed on Djibouti street children by French diplomats, aid workers, soldiers and churchmen."

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 were issued in 2006.

"This judgement is only the culmination of a process started in November 2002 in a climate of hatred against Djiboutians by militant magistrates supporting Mrs Borrel," Guelleh's office said Saturday.

"The Republic of Djibouti will draw the appropriate conclusions from this development in which the French State has taken the side of injustice and lies."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who came to office in May last year, promised to help Borrel's widow find the truth.

The two countries clashed in January at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, when France rejected Djibouti's complaints that it had refused to share details of its own investigation into Borrel's death.

 

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