By RNZ Pacific
French Polynesia’s pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru has suspended his hunger strike launched five days ago in protest at the French judiciary.
Temaru, mayor of the largest municipality Faa’a and a former territorial president, made the announcement outside the courts in Pape’ete where he and his supporters gathered every day this week.
He said he would resume his hunger strike on Monday when he expects the prosecutor Herve Leroy to appear in court following a complaint lodged by his lawyers.
Last week, Leroy seized US$100,000 from Temaru’s private account and had a judge afterwards approve the action, saying the funds were taken so that they could not be spent.
In response, Temaru’s lawyers have taken legal action against Leroy, arguing that as prosecutor he failed to honour Temaru’s presumption of innocence because there was no final verdict in the case, over which the money was seized.
Temaru said he thus demanded US$100,000 in damages, which is the equivalent sum taken last week.
Last year, Temaru, who is the veteran mayor of Faa’a holding office since 1983, was convicted for exerting undue influence over the funding of a community radio station by the Faa’a council.
According to Leroy, the money seized was what the Faa’a municipal council spent on Temaru’s defence and which Leroy said was an abuse of public funds.
Apart from challenging Leroy in court, Temaru is appealing to the judicial authorities seeking to reverse the judge’s formal order to seize his money.
The judge had said taking the mayor’s savings was not a disproportionate move.
However, Temaru’s backers said the action was unprecedented as the 75-year-old politician was treated as if he was a drug dealer who posed a flight risk.
They also said it amounted to colonial justice because none of the pro-French politicians facing court and with a record of corruption convictions had their savings seized.
The president of French Polynesia is awaiting an appeal court ruling after being convicted a year ago for abusing public funds of the town of Pirae.
This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.