Diana death pictures verdict Friday

27th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 27 (AFP) - A verdict is due Friday in the trial of three French paparazzi accused of breaching the country's strict privacy rules by photographing Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed on the night of their fatal car-crash six years ago.

PARIS, Nov 27 (AFP) - A verdict is due Friday in the trial of three French paparazzi accused of breaching the country's strict privacy rules by photographing Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed on the night of their fatal car-crash six years ago.

In last month's trial the state prosecutor asked the judge to hand down unspecified suspended prison terms on Jacques Langevin, Christian Martinez and Fabrice Chassery. The maximum penalty they face is a year in prison and a fine of EUR 45,000 (USD 53,600).

The three were among the eight paparazzi and one dispatch rider who followed Diana and Dodi on the night of August 31 1997, when the pair were killed in a crash in a Paris underpass along with their limousine driver Henri Paul.

All were initially investigated on manslaughter and non-assistance charges but cleared before the case came to court. The privacy trial came as a result of a civil suit filed by Dodi's father - Egyptian millionaire Mohamed Al Fayed.

Al Fayed's lawyer Bernard Dartevelle asked the judge to fine the paparazzi a symbolic one euro in damages.

"We do not want to make the accused suffer. But we want the court to acknowledge that all the photographs taken that night should not have been taken. And we want it to be very clear to all that publication of such photographs leads to prosecution," he said in court.

In the first ever criminal trial relating to the crash, the photographers described their horror at coming on the scene of the wrecked car but denied that in taking pictures they had breached their professional code.

"Accidents, terrible things happen all the time ... It was dramatic, but I was a witness. I wasn't there to pass judgement. I am a journalist. I was bearing witness," said Langevin, who worked for the Sygma agency at the time.

The case centred on six unpublished photographs which were not revealed to the public gallery. The judge said that three were of Dodi and Diana in their car outside the Ritz, and three showed them after the crash.

Arguments in court focused on whether in law a car with the doors shut constitutes a private space, whether Dodi and Diana had given their consent to be photographed, and whether the paparazzi had acted with intent when they took their pictures.

Dartevelle said Dodi and Diana had been harassed by photographers throughout their summer holiday on the French Riviera and that a picture of the two kissing had fetched ten million francs (EUR 1.52 million, USD 1.8 million).

"These extraordinary sums generated a kind of hyperactivity that led to a veritable manhunt (by the photographers)," he said.

"If moments of suffering are not respected in their dignity, we are heading for a system of totalitarianism. I ask the court to fix a limit to the freedom of exercising the profession of photography in this kind of circumstance," state prosecutor Beatrice Vautherin said.

A judicial investigation into the crash ruled that it was caused by a combination of excessive speed and the alcohol and prescription drugs found in the bloodstream of the driver Paul.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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