The 'dog-of-war' gets suspended five-year term

20th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 20, 2006 (AFP) - Aging French mercenary Denard was handed a five-year suspended jail term by a Paris court Tuesday after being convicted of organising a failed 1995 putsch in the Comoros islands.

PARIS, June 20, 2006 (AFP) - Aging French mercenary Denard was handed a five-year suspended jail term by a Paris court Tuesday after being convicted of organising a failed 1995 putsch in the Comoros islands.

Now 77 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the notorious former dog-of-war had denied charges of criminal association in relation to the coup attempt on the Indian Ocean islands against president Said Mohammed Djohar, which fizzled out when French troops intervened after a week.

A total of 26 others were also found guilty, including Denard's long-standing lieutenants Jean-Paul Guerrier, 55, also known as Captain Slam, and Dominique Malcrino, 54, or Commandant Marques.

Four were exempted from any sentence, and the rest given suspended jail terms of up to four years.

Lawyer Said Larifou, representing Djohar's family, said the Comoran people would "feel insulted" by the lack of custodial sentence. "This is an encouragement — even a bonus — for mercenaries," he said.

A bit-player in a series of wars across post-colonial Africa, Denard — whose real name is Gilbert Bourgeaud — attended only the first day of the three-week trial in February after the court ruled that his "neurological difficulties" rendered him unfit.

However in testimony read to the court, he said that "he never for one moment believed he was acting against the interests of my country — quite the contrary."

Other defendants said they thought they had the tacit approval of the French intelligence services when they landed from rubber dinghies on the night of September 27 and took over the presidential palace in the Comoros islands' capital Moroni.

Denard's lawyer Elie Hatem told the court that the operation — codenamed "Eskazi" — was "teleguided by French politicians ... It was a pretext for France to intervene and get rid of a president."

Reacting to the verdict, Hatem said the court "had it in for the underdogs, because it is very difficult to point the finger at the French state and all the politicians who have gone to ground."

On October 4 1995, recently-elected President Jacques Chirac activated a friendship agreement with the Comoros and sent in a 600-man force which quickly put down the putsch. Djohar however was not restored to power and died earlier this year.

There is widespread suspicion that many of Denard's African military adventures in the 1960s and 1970s were conducted with the connivance of the French authorities who were anxious to maintain influence on the continent.

However the election of Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in 1981 is believed to have brought to an end Denard's privileged contacts.

The 1995 putsch was Denard's fourth and last coup or coup attempt in the Comoros islands, an archipelago off Africa's east coast that won independence from France in 1975.

He helped overthrow the country's first president Ahmed Abdallah in 1975 and restored him to power three years later. He then became head of the Comoran presidential guard after converting to Islam and taking the name of Said Mustapha Madhjoub.

In 1989 Abdallah was assassinated in suspicious circumstances. Denard, who immediately left the Comoros for South Africa, was tried for the murder in France 10 years later but acquitted for lack of evidence.

In 1993 Denard was given a five-year suspended jail term by a French court for a 1977 failed coup in Benin.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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