Tahiti’s Oscar Temaru challenges court over French judicial ethics

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Pro-independence community station Radio Tefana ... subject of an "exerting undue influence" court case last year. Image: Radio Tefana/RNZ

By RNZ Pacific

A Paris-based lawyer acting for French Polynesia’s pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru has taken his client’s treatment in the case in Tahiti to France’s High Council for the Judiciary.

David Koubbi raised the actions of the prosecutor in Pape’ete against the Fa’aa mayor with the 22-member agency which rules on professional ethics.

Two weeks ago, the prosecutor Herve Leroy ordered the seizure of US$100,000 from Temaru’s savings account before obtaining an authorisation by a judge as part of a new investigation into alleged abuse of public funds.

READ MORE: Tahiti’s Temaru marks decolonisation listing

Oscar Temaru
Oscar Temaru, mayor of Faa’a since 1983 … legal fight against “colonial justice”. Image: RNZ/FB

Leroy intervened over Temaru’s court conviction for exerting undue influence last year but Temaru said the case was still on appeal and therefore his presumption of innocence was violated.

The new probe launched by Leroy this year asserts Temaru misspent public funds because the Fa’aa municipal council had decided to fund his defence, including the cost to hire Koubbi.

The lawyers face the risk of court action against them for accepting funds which the prosecutor claims the council unduly allotted to Temaru’s benefit.

Koubbi told the public broadcaster in Tahiti that he also took up this case with the ombudsman, also known as the defender of rights.

Preliminary ruling sought
Yesterday, Temaru sought a preliminary ruling from the court in Tahiti over Leroy’s actions.

However, Leroy was not there and his lawyer secured a deferral of the hearing until next Monday, June 22.

Temaru, who at the beginning of last week started a hunger strike in protest at the French judiciary, suspended the action on Friday in view of yesterday’s scheduled court hearing.

It is unclear if the case will be heard in Pape’ete after the head of the court said she might not be able to rule because the prosecutor was part of the same judicial organisation in Tahiti.

One of his supporters, French Polynesian and French parliamentarian Moetai Brotherson, questioned the suggestion to move the case to France, saying it would be unclear who would pay for Temaru and his lawyers to go to France.

He said if there were a transfer, New Caledonia should be considered because, unlike France, it was covid-19 free.

Yesterday, Temaru also signed an appeal against the judge’s order seizing his money.

Political ‘punishment’ case
Koubbi restated that the case against Temaru was political and punishment for him succeeding in having restored French Polynesia onto the UN decolonisation list in 2013.

He also cited the 2018 move by Temaru to take France’s living presidents to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity over the nuclear weapons tests between 1966 and 1996.

Last year, Temaru was given a suspended prison sentence for exerting undue influence after the court found that the Fa’aa council funding of a pro-independence community station, Radio Tefana, profited his political party.

However, Koubbi said the prosecution had failed to provide an example of the station being partisan.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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