Diana paparazzi acquitted
PARIS, Nov 28 (AFP) - A Paris court on Friday acquitted three press photographers who took pictures of Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed on the night of their fatal car-crash six years ago.
The court found Jacques Langevin, Christian Martinez and Fabrice Chassery not guilty of breaching France’s tough privacy laws when they photographed the pair inside their limousine. If convicted they had faced a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of EUR 45,000 (USD 53,600).
“This is an excellent decision, which confirms the principle of the freedom of the press and the right to information,” said Martinez’s lawyer Valerie Rosano.
The case came to court as a result of a civil suit filed by Dodi’s father, Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, who claimed a symbolic one euro in damages. His lawyer Bernard Dartevelle described the verdict as a “reversal of legal precedent” and said he would probably lodge an appeal.
The three accused were among the eight paparazzi and one dispatch rider who followed Diana and Dodi on the night of August 31, 1997, when the pair were killed in a crash in a Paris underpass along with their limousine driver Henri Paul.
All were initially investigated on manslaughter and non-assistance charges but cleared before the case came to court.
Last month’s hearing was the first time events surrounding the world-famous accident had come to trial. The state prosecutor asked for unspecified suspended prison sentences for the three, arguing that to acquit them would encourage press intrusion.
However in its written ruling the court said that though the pictures had been taken of the interior of the car – which is technically a private space – they had not revealed “any intimate gesture or behaviour” on the part of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed.
The photographs had not “made public a secret liaison as the (relations between the couple) had been the talk of the town throughout the summer,” the court ruled. “Nor were they taken secretly, as the couple could not have been unaware that they risked being photographed when they left their hotel.”
At last month’s hearing, lawyers for the three photographers said they had simply been doing their job, and pointed out that the pictures at issue – which included some of the couple inside the crashed limousine – had never been published.
“Accidents, terrible things happen all the time … It was dramatic, but I was a witness. I wasn’t there to pass judgement. I am a journalist. I was bearing witness,” said Langevin, who worked for the Sygma agency at the time. None of the three was in court for the verdict.
A judicial investigation into the crash ruled that it was caused by a combination of excessive speed and the alcohol and prescription drugs found in the bloodstream of the driver Paul.
Subject: French news