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The case of a journalist who went missing from Tahiti is long overdue for justice, says the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), calling for the release of top-secret state documents.
“It is 18 years since he disappeared, and 10 years since investigations started into allegations of assassination”, says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.
“Jean-Pascal Couraud, his family, colleagues and many friends are long overdue for justice”, says Gabi.
“Couraud was a popular and persistent voice for the people of French Polynesia – his alleged assassination still haunts us today.”
Known by his byline as JPK, Couraud went missing from Tahiti on 15th December 1997, with police initially ruling suicide by drowning.
It was the 19th anniversary this week of his disappearance, 18 years ago.
Couraud had been editor of the daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles, but was sacked after local owners were bought out, under pressure from French media interests. He then worked as a communications adviser for an opposition leader, Boris Léontieff-Teahu, who also went missing in an ocean plane crash with senior members of his party.
Neither they nor Couraud were ever found.
After a change of government in 2005, a member of a shadowy surveillance group alleged overhearing team mates boasting about abducting, beating and then drowning Couraud, in waters 2,500 metres deep.
Those allegations were withdrawn under pressure from the surveillance unit, part of a presidential civil emergency group, then later reasserted in court hearings after ongoing judicial inquiries uncovered links to an investigation by Couraud, reaching to the highest levels of the French state.
PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller says that questions surrounding the case have only grown “larger and wider” in the 10 years since police reopened the case, following the lodging of a complaint by his family.
“Sometimes, the smallest islands hide the biggest secrets,” says Miller.
“Fundamental human rights to access information are being denied by the French state under the guise of national security.”
PFF is calling on the current Hollande administration to examine restrictions placed on key documents relating to the disappearance of Jean-Pascal Couraud.
“Until the JPK dossier is released, the French state must be considered a suspect in this case, and equally suspect in its claims towards plurality of a free press,” says Miller.
French journalists link the secret Couraud documents with the world's largest financial organisation, Clearstream, a bank-for-banks that was exposed in 2001 as having US$1.5 trillion in “false assets”.
Three former members of the surveillance unit, closely linked with former president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, are facing charges for murder as part of an organised gang.
Flosse has faced numerous accusations and charges of corruption, including allegations of kickbacks to the political party of former French president, Jacques Chirac.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media