French former mercenary Bob Denard has appeared in court in Paris accused of staging a coup attempt in the Comoros Islands over ten years ago. 26 other defendants also face charges of trying to topple the government of the Indian Ocean nation. However, Denard has Alzheimer’s disease and will be tried in absentia. “Physically, he’s doing OK,” says his lawyer, Elie Hatem, “but unfortunately mentally he struggles to follow events. His mental and intellectual faculties are not what they were, particularly his memory, and that makes it hard for him to be clear about things.”
Denard was arrested by French troops in September 1995, under the terms of a pact with the Comoros Islands, a former French colony. He and his co-defendants claim they were acting with the approval of the French Secret Service. Arguably the best-known and most influential of mercenaries of his time, Denard has called French ex-Prime Minister Alain Juppe as a witness. The self-styled “Pirate of the Republic”, Denard fought in civil wars and uprisings in many fledgling African nations during the 70’s and 80’s.