24 Aug 2009

More than 1,000 march in New Caledonia over detained unionists

5:51 am on 24 August 2009

More than 1,000 people have taken to streets of the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, to demand the release of unionists jailed for a year since the end of June.

The rally, which was supported by a range of groups, also decried alleged police brutality in recent skirmishes.

The clashes involved supporters of the USTKE union, whose leader, Gerard Jodar, is among those imprisoned for a year over the violence at Noumea's domestic airport.

The protest march passed without incident, with the French authorities having banned the sale of alcohol in Noumea for a day as a precaution.

The march has also come ahead of tomorrow's court of appeal hearing to consider Jodar's bid to be freed.

Meanwhile, seven people have been jailed for up to six months over the violence in the Noumea area earlier this month which led to widespread disruptions.

The clashes prompted the biggest demonstration in a generation with 26,000 people marching in Noumea to denounce the violence.