French 'dog of war' Bob Denard heads to trial

4th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 3 (AFP) - Bob Denard, the French mercenary notorious for his involvement in African coups since the 1970s, is to go on trial early next year for his attempt to overthrow the Comoros government 10 years ago, officials said Monday.

PARIS, Oct 3 (AFP) - Bob Denard, the French mercenary notorious for his involvement in African coups since the 1970s, is to go on trial early next year for his attempt to overthrow the Comoros government 10 years ago, officials said Monday.

Denard and 26 other defendants will be brought before a Paris court on charges of criminal association with intent to organise a crime over their sequestration of the Comoros' then president Said Mohamed Djohar during the failed coup bid that took place September 27-October 4, 1995.

The veteran combatant, now 76, led 30 mercenaries on board four inflatable dinghies that landed on the shores of the archipelago.

Djohar was taken hostage and held in army barracks while Denard and his group declared a transitional government under the leadership of opposition figures.

But France, acting under a cooperation treaty with the Comoros, dispatched troops that quashed the coup, freed Djohar and arrested the mercenaries.

Denard has emerged relatively unscathed from past brushes with the French law over his paramilitary activities -- sometimes because he acted with Paris's tacit approval.

In 1999, he was acquitted of the murder of Djohar's predecessor, Ahmed Abdullah, who was killed in his presence during a coup he organised in 1989.

And in 1993 he received a suspended five-year prison term for an attempted overthrow in Benin in 1977.

In 1976 he backed a coup to depose Abdullah after Abdullah declared independence from France, and two years later he overthrew Ali Soilih whom he had helped install in his place. Soilih was killed "while trying to escape," he said. Denard then backed the restoration of Abdullah in 1978 and took up duties as the chief of the presidential guard.

His last acknowledged coup attempt in the Comoros was in 1997.

Since winning independence from France in 1975, the Comoros have suffered through 20 coups or attempted putsches that have severely affected potential foreign investment, trade and business opportunities.

Denard, who was married to a Comoran woman and who limps from an old leg wound, fought in African, Middle East and the Vietnam conflicts as a soldier before turning to his freelance ways, which have also taken him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Biafra in Nigeria, and Angola.

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

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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