France's 'dog of war' too ill to stand trial: lawyers

10th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 10, 2006 (AFP) - Bob Denard, a French mercenary notorious for his involvement in African coups since the 1970s, is too ill to stand trial for a 1995 thwarted putsch in the Comoros islands, according to a court medical report obtained Friday by AFP.

PARIS, Feb 10, 2006 (AFP) - Bob Denard, a French mercenary notorious for his involvement in African coups since the 1970s, is too ill to stand trial for a 1995 thwarted putsch in the Comoros islands, according to a court medical report obtained Friday by AFP.

The evaluation, ordered by the judge assigned to the trial scheduled to start February 20, found that Denard, 76, was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and therefore "was not capable to testify."

The judge, Thierry Devernoix de Bonnefon, was expected to rule on whether Denard would be tried or not on the first day of proceedings.

Denard and 26 other defendants are being brought before the court for making the attempted coup bid in late September and early October 1995 and taking hostage the then-president of the Indian Ocean archipelago, Said Mohamed Djohar.

The coup was ended within days by France, which, acting under a cooperation treaty with Comoros, dispatched troops who freed Djohar and arrested the mercenaries.

Denard's lawyer, Elie Hatem, said the report "legally excused" his client from standing trial, but Djohar's lawyer, Said Larifou, said he would ask for another medical examination of Denard to be carried out next week.

Denard, who was married to a Comoran woman and who limps from an old leg wound, fought in Africa, the Middle East and Vietnam as a soldier before turning to his freelance ways.

As well as Comoros, he fought in civil wars in Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Nigeria and Angola.

Born plain Gilbert Bourgeaud, he became the archetypal 'dog of war' for his escapades around Africa, several of which he claimed were carried out under contract from Belgium, France, Gabon and Morocco.

He was involved in several of the 20 coups and coup attempts inflicted on Comoros since they won independence from France in 1975. His last acknowledged participation was in 1997.

In 1976 he backed a coup to depose Ahmed Abdullah, the state's first president after independence, and helped install a rival, Ali Soilih, in his place.

Two years later he overthrew Soilih, who was killed when, Denard said, he tried to escape.

Denard then backed the restoration of Abdullah in 1978 and for a while commanded the presidential guard.

But in 1989 he organised another coup during which Abdullah was killed. He was acquitted of the murder in a 1999 French trial.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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