French Polynesia’s pro-independence leader and mayor of Faa’a, Oscar Temaru, says double standards are at play in probing him over the payment of his legal defence.
Temaru commented on being held for six hours last week for questioning over the Faa’a Council’s decision to pay his legal bill in a 2019 court case, which is still under appeal.
The prosecution claimed the payment amounted to an abuse of public funds and that Temaru should have paid for the expense with his own money.
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A lawyer acting for Temaru said the council was obliged to cover the mayor’s bill, describing last week’s brief detention of Temaru as a bid to tarnish him.
Temaru said such cover had for example been extended to the former chief-of-staff of Nicolas Sarkozy, Claude Gueant.
As part of the probe, the prosecutor in 2020 ordered the seizure of Temaru’s US$100,000 personal savings — a move being challenged by Temaru.
The probe drew criticism as his defence team risked court action for accepting funds that the prosecutor claimed were unduly allotted to Temaru’s benefit.
Prosecutor’s move challenged
One lawyer, David Koubbi, raised the prosecutor’s move with a 22-member agency which rules on professional ethics.
In the 2019 court case, Temaru and two others were given suspended prison sentences and fines in the criminal court in Pape’ete.
They were convicted for exercising undue influence over funding arrangements for a community station, Radio Tefana, which supports Temaru’s pro-independence political party Tavini Huiraatira.
In what was his first conviction, Temaru was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and a US$50,000 fine.
The current and former chairs of the board of the association which runs Radio Tefana, Heinui Le Caill and Vito Maamaatuaiahutapu, had also been given suspended jail sentences of one and three months, respectively.
Radio Tefana was fined US$1 million.
Maamaatuaiahutapu said it would have been easier to blow up the station with dynamite instead of having a trial.
US$1m fine five times radio’s budget
Le Caill said the station’s US$1 million fine was five times its budget, meaning the station was unable to pay and would have to close.
At the time of the trial, Temaru said if he had to be convicted, he should be jailed for life.
After sentencing, Temaru said he was being punished because in the eyes of France he “committed treason” by taking French presidents to the International Criminal Court over nuclear weapons tests.
The case was appealed two years ago but has been deferred four times and is now due to be heard on August 29.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.