19 Sep 2005

Veteran politician in New Caledonia fined for threatening journalist

7:06 am on 19 September 2005

New Caledonia's veteran politician, Jacques Lafleur, has been fined more than 20,000 US dollars for threatening a journalist with assault in a telephone message four years ago.

Lafleur, who is the territory's representative in the French assembly, was identified by sound experts as the person making the anonymous call to journalist, Etienne Dutailly, and warning him of a further possible beating.

Mr Dutailly, who publishes a satirical newspaper, was assaulted by unidentified men shortly before the phone call and warned that he might be targetted again.

A court has now sentenced Lafleur to pay 3,000 US dollars in damages and fined him 20,000 US dollars in 100 instalments that can be converted into 100 days in jail if he fails to pay.

Lafleur was the territory's dominant politician for the past quarter of a century but his party lost power last year, and this year he failed to retain its leadership.