September trials for '95 arrests yield 60+ convictions and some jail sentences.
In September of 1995, the French colonialists began their final series of nuclear tests beneath the atolls of the south Pacific. In Tahiti, the growing international anti-nuclear protests were joined by trade unionists and advocates for independence. France detonated the first of the series on September 6, and the next day outraged protesters occupied the runway of the international airport at Papeete. Police, portraying the protest as a serious threat to the tourist-based economy of Tahiti, moved forcefully to break it up, and provoked a riotous response.
Afterwards, at least sixty people - including four supporters from a French pacifist community - faced criminal charges. Some of those charged had suffered serious beatings at the hands of the police who arrested them. Most were charged with disturbing air traffic, while others faced such charges as instigation, destruction of furniture, assault on public servants, stealing, carrying objects to serve as weapons, and provoking damage of buildings.
Three years later, their trial finally took place last September. The Palace of Justice was specially renovated for the trial and police and reserve troops mobilized, in preparation for the number of defendants and large crowd expected. The trial proceeded in a calm and serious manner, as defendants were given the opportunity to tell the story of their protest. Some placed the blame for the riots squarely on the shoulders of French President Jacques Chirac.
Testifying for the defense on behalf of several nongovernmental organizations, Gabriel Tetiarahi, a leader of the pro-independence group Hiti Tau, said the only "crime" committed was the success of protesters in preventing Chirac from completing all ten of his planned nuclear tests at Murorua and Fangataufa atolls.
The defendants were convicted on September 22, and sentences were announced on October 20. Thirty-three were sentenced to probation and suspended fines. Twenty-eight others received prison sentences (some, in part, suspended or suspended upon payment of fine), fines equivalent to about $300-$800, and probation. The most severe sentences were reserved for the accused leaders of the protests. Hiro Tefaarere, lead organizer of A Tia I Mua, a trade union organization, was sentenced to three years in prison, 18 months suspended, plus loss of rights for five years. Ronald Terorotua, former secretary general of A Tia I Mua, was sentenced to two years, one suspended, plus loss of rights for three years. Terorotua says they will appeal the conviction.
After subtracting suspended sentences, at least eleven others will serve one to six months behind bars: Henri Temaititahio, Albert Temataholoa, and Winfred Lacour, six months; Eugene Teriitua Yao Tham Sao, Emile Teuahau, Alexandre Puupuu, Irvine Paro, and Timau Heitaa, three months; Henri Moana, two months; and Rosette Pautu and Georges Mendiola, one month.
of support and solidarity may be sent to the prisoners c/o Hiti Tau, POB
8075, Taravao, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Financial support for the families
of those in prison, particularly those serving longer sentences, is requested
and will also be accepted by Hiti Tau.
(Editors' Note: At press time, we could not confirm that the 13 are now serving their jail sentences, but we assume that they are based on translations of the information we have received. And until more information regarding bank transfers is available, we presume contributions of currency are readily exchanged in Tahiti. For updates as they become available, call the Nuclear Resister at (520)323-8697, email: email@example.com or check here at our website.)