15 Sep 2010

New Caledonia court gives suspended jail terms to 32 Rheebu Nuu members

1:04 pm on 15 September 2010

The criminal court in New Caledonia has sentenced 32 members of the environmentalist Rheebu Nuu group to suspended jail terms for their role in clashes with police near the construction site of the Vale nickel plant in 2006.

Among those given suspended two-month jail terms are Raphael Mapou and Andre Vama who led the violent campaign against the project which at the time was run by Inco of Canada.

The two were also fined 540 US dollars while the 30 others were given suspended prison terms of one to five months.

A policeman had been seriously injured in the clashes which followed efforts to lift blockades set up by Rheebu Nuu.

The 2006 action by the activists caused damage to construction equipment and installations in the range of 10 million US dollars and forced work to be suspended for weeks.

At the time, police was accused of using live bullets against protesters armed with only metal bars and knives.

The Rheebu Nuu group, which in 2008 signed a pact with the new nickel plant owner, Vale of Brazil, is expected to meet next week to review the deal in view of the court convictions.