20 Jul 2020

Man imprisoned over New Caledonia flag display fire

6:09 am on 20 July 2020
New Caledonia jail

New Caledonia jail Photo: RNZI/Walter Zweifel

A man in New Caledonia has been given a one-year jail sentence for setting fire to a large tarpaulin displaying the French flag on the facade of the seat of government of the Southern Province.

The banner had been erected by the anti-independence administration to mark the upcoming French National Day on 14 July.

New Caledonia jail

New Caledonia jail Photo: RNZI/Walter Zweifel

Half of his sentence was suspended but the court ordered him to pay for the damage.

Firefighters put out the blaze, fearing it could damage the building.

The 22-year-old man, who was arrested on Thursday, told the court that he considered the display of the French tricolore to be propaganda for the anti-independence camp.

The president of the provincial administration Sonia Backes had called for punishment, saying the burning of the banner was an act against a New Caledonian institution and against a symbol of the French republic.

In recent weeks, there has been debate about the use of the French flag in view of the independence referendum in October.

Paris authorised its use for the referendum campaign while the pro-independence side it defied the electoral law which bans the use of the flag for party politics.

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