18 Nov 2004

Complaint over treatment of witness in French Polynesia disappearance case

1:00 pm on 18 November 2004

A French Polynesian lawyer says he is lodging a formal complaint over the treatment in custody of a key witness in a high-profile disappearance.

Vetea Guilloux, a former member of the GIP presidential intelligence service, was jailed last month in connection with the disappearance seven years ago of investigative journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud.

Guilloux alleged that Mr Couraud was followed and murdered by the GIP, headed by the-then French Polynesian president, Gaston Flosse.

Later he changed his version, and went to jail for making libellous allegations.

But three weeks ago he appealed, saying his original statements were correct.

His lawyer, Stanley Cross, says a decision within days should see Guilloux freed and a new probe into the case.

Mr Cross says he's also complaining to an independent judge about Guilloux's treatment.

"It's forbidden to keep a person without charges on him. He stayed 10 hours or more, and so we have an article about that in the criminal law, and I put a complaint against the prosecutor and the police for this problem."

The Reporters Sans Frontieres group says Guilloux's recent statements could force a reopening of the investigation into the disappearance, a probe that closed in 2002 for a lack of evidence.