Chirac accused of 'treason' over judge death

13th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 13, 2007 (AFP) - Former French president Jacques Chirac was accused of "treason" Wednesday for allegedly helping the government of Djibouti cover up the truth behind the 1995 death of a French judge.

PARIS, June 13, 2007 (AFP) - Former French president Jacques Chirac was accused of "treason" Wednesday for allegedly helping the government of Djibouti cover up the truth behind the 1995 death of a French judge.

Elisabeth Borrel, who believes her husband Bernard Borrel was murdered by Djibouti agents, said that France cooperated with President Ismael Omar Guelleh's efforts to bury the affair because of fears of losing its military base in the tiny east African state.

Her accusation came a day after documents were made public which appeared to show that in 2005 Chirac advised Guelleh to take France before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague over the French criminal investigation into Borrel's death.

Flanked by her lawyers, Elisabeth Borrel appealed to Chirac's successor Nicolas Sarkozy to "make a commitment to ensure the respect of those principles which alone will see the murderers of my husband identified and brought to justice."

"It was Chirac himself who suggested to Djibouti's president to take France before the ICJ," said her lawyer Olivier Morice.

"Juridically what happened comes under the heading of treason. Since the start of the affair diplomatic considerations have taken precedence over justice," said Laurent de Caunes, who is also on her legal team.

Borrel's half-burned body was found at the foot of a ravine 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the town of Djibouti in October 1995. He had been working on secondment to the Djibouti justice ministry.

A local enquiry concluded that he had committed suicide, but the next year French justice officials disputed the findings and opened a murder investigation.

Elisabeth Borrel and other campaigners believe her husband was killed on orders from senior figures in the Djibouti government because he was in possession of compromising information, possibly concerning arms trafficking or terrorist attacks on French interests in Djibouti.

The government of Djibouti has tried for several years to gain access to the dossier being compiled by French investigating magistrates, but their demands have been repeatedly turned down by French justice officials.

In March this year judges in France opened a separate investigation into allegations of French political pressure in the Borrel case.

They then raided the ministries of justice and foreign affairs in Paris and seized a number of documents. An attempt to search the Elysee palace shortly before Chirac left office in May was thwarted because of his presidential immunity.

Leaked to the press on Tuesday, the seized documents -- including a diplomatic note from the French ambassador in Djibouti -- appear to suggest that it was France's idea for Djibouti to go before the ICJ in order to demand access to the French criminal investigation.

"The Djibouti authorites are thinking over our idea of resorting to the ICJ," the ambassador's note from mid-2005 reads, according to a copy obtained by AFP.

Investigators believe Chirac may have made the suggestion to Guelleh at a meeting in May 2005. In January 2006, Djibouti did indeed file suit at the ICJ, claiming that France had broken a bilateral agreement on judicial assistance.

France, the former colonial pwoer, has 2,700 troops in Djibouti, whose government has also allowed 1,500 US troops to be based in the country for the fight against terrorism.

Chirac's presidntial immunity expires on Saturday, one month after he left office.

Newspaper reports say he is likely to be questioned at some point over allegations of illegal party financing, as well as over the so-called Clearstream affair -- a dirty tricks campaign of which Sarkozy believes he was a victim.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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