French court scraps Senegal minister warrants.

17th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Paris appeals court scrapped arrest warrants issued against two former Senegalese ministers over the sinking of the Joola ferry.

Paris – The Paris appeals court on Tuesday scrapped arrest warrants issued against two former Senegalese ministers over the sinking of the Joola ferry, Africa's worst maritime disaster, officials said.

A French judge in September issued warrants for nine Senegalese officials including ex-prime minister Mame Madior Boye and ex-defence minister Youba Sambou, in connection with the 2002 sinking, which claimed 1,800 lives.

But state prosecutors appealed against the warrants for the ex-ministers, issued on a count of manslaughter, arguing that both had diplomatic immunity.

The Paris appeals court overturned the warrants against Boye and Sambou, a judicial official said, without giving details of the ruling.

But the court threw out a separate bid from lawyers acting for the Senegalese government to have the entire case annulled.

The Joola disaster, in which 22 French nationals died, has strained ties between France and its former west African colony.

Senegalese authorities last year demanded the French arrest warrants be cancelled and responded tit-for-tat by issuing their own international warrant for the French judge, Jean-Wilfrid Noel.

The Joola capsized in stormy seas off Gambia on the night of September 26, 2002, while sailing between the southern Senegalese territory of Casamance and the capital Dakar.

Licensed to carry 550 people, it had 1,927 passengers on board, according to official figures, of whom only 64 survived.

In Senegal, several ministers and high-ranking military officers were fired after the accident and compensation offered to the victims' families but the case never came before a court.

AFP / Expatica

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