Soldier surrenders at French explosives depot

6th December 2004, Comments 1 comment

CONNANTRAY-VAUREFOY, France, Dec 6 (AFP) - A disgruntled French non-commissioned officer gave himself up before dawn Monday after barricading himself in an explosives depot for more than two days to protest his lack of promotion.

CONNANTRAY-VAUREFOY, France, Dec 6 (AFP) - A disgruntled French non-commissioned officer gave himself up before dawn Monday after barricading himself in an explosives depot for more than two days to protest his lack of promotion.

Officials said the man, Regis Le Tohic, surrendered peacefully after receiving guarantees that his case would be reviewed.

Authorities later allowed about 400 people to return to their homes around the weapons dump, after they had been evacuated as a precaution over the weekend.

Le Tohic, an explosives expert, locked himself in a fortified storehouse, known as an igloo, holding 64 tonnes of mines.

The depot is in the midst of the flat Marne valley battlefields of World War I and World War II.

Dominique Dubois, the local prefect, the top regional government official, originally said Le Tohic had threatened to blow himself up, but his lawyer, Gerard Ducrey, said late Sunday that his client was "calm and has no aggressive or violent intentions."

Aided by members of Le Tohic's family, specialised negotiators belonging to a gendarmerie rapid response unit (GIGN) kept the soldier talking. Ducrey said Le Tohic had made no attempt to booby-trap the depot, and officials said police did not try to storm it.

"He manifestly needed to hear the voice of someone he knew, someone who would defend him," said Ducrey, who specialises in military cases and had previously represented Le Tohic in a long and fruitless battle with the military hierarchy.

Le Tohic was unhappy at being passed over for promotion, which meant that he was being made to leave the army on December 17, his 47th birthday, rather than being allowed to serve until he was 54.

Divorced, with no children, he had worked as an explosives expert at the base since 1999.

Le Tohic remained in the depot after his shift Friday night, and on Saturday slipped a note under the door addressed to the defence ministry protesting his forced retirement.

Ducrey said the military hierarchy had been dysfunctional. He told AFP that Le Tohic had been considered "an excellent professional" by fellow soldiers and "felt that he was a victim of injustices and victimised by several of his superior officers."

After Le Tohic surrendered, Ducrey told reporters, "I have had an assurance that his case will be re-examined. I hope that will be carried out with alacrity, profundity and good will."

Ducrey said his client was clearly a good professional and it was therefore "difficult to understand why he has vegetated in the same rank for 14 years."

Le Tohic is an adjutant, equivalent to a master sergeant in the US army or a warrant officer in Britain.

The local prosecutor, Vincent Lesclous, said Le Tohic was under arrest at the military base, and faced a possible charge of making a deadly menace for which he could, in theory, be jailed for up to three years.

After talks with family members and friends on Sunday, Le Tohic agreed to meet with his lawyer at 6.15 am (0515 GMT) and gave himself up 30 minutes later, the prefect, Dubois, said.

He was described by his lawyer as being "extremely tired and extremely troubled by the events. He is still in a state of shock."

© AFP

Subject: French News

1 Comment To This Article

  • Michael posted:

    on 4th September 2011, 01:49:15 - Reply

    Excellent article... This summer I was able to have the experience with the horses ... I was in Europe for 6 weeks on a family vocation. Covered all of Croatia and Bosnia.... The highlight of my trpp was to spend three hours among the Wild Horses near Livno, Bosnia .....

    Certainly would like to get in touch with Mario Jozic.... and see if can be of any help ... in preserving the Wild Horses in Bosnia.