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New Caledonian independence leader appears in court over unrest

Police in the restive French Pacific territory of New Caledonia rounded up 11 people on Wednesday, including an independence leader, who are suspected of having a role in the
Police in the restive French Pacific territory of New Caledonia rounded up 11 people on Wednesday, including an independence leader, who are suspected of having a role in the Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
Published on Updated
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Christian Tein is the leader of a pro-independence group that French officials allege played a leading role in weeks of violence that erupted in May.

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Tein appeared in court in New Caledonia's capital Nouméa, along with ten other people who were arrested on Wednesday in the troubled French Pacific territory.

Local media reported that the eleven appeared before the public prosecutor Yves Dupas on Saturday morning.

Dupas opened a judicial investigation and ordered Tein to be placed in pre-trial detention in mainland France, which is about 16,800 kilometres away from New Caledonia.

Thein is the leader of the Field Action Coordination Cell or CCAT, which is a pro-independence movement, that has called for an end to France ruling over New Caledonia.

The eleven are suspected of having a role in the deadly violence that wracked the archipelago where Indigenous Kanak people have long sought to break free from France.

The detentions were part of an ongoing police investigation launched on May 17th, just days after unrest first erupted, into a wave of armed clashes, looting, blazes and other violence that turned parts of Nouméa and its suburbs into no-go zones.

The revolt prompted France to declare a state of emergency on the archipelago and rush in reinforcements for police forces that were rapidly overwhelmed. The violence led to nine deaths, including two gendarmes, and widespread destruction of shops, businesses and homes.

Last week the prosecutor said the detentions were part of a police investigation into a broad array of suspected crimes, including complicity in homicide and attempted homicide, armed robbery, arson, and membership of a group created to prepare violent acts.

With France now plunged into frenzied campaigning for snap parliamentary elections, French President Emmanuel Macron has suspended the reforms that would have altered voting rights in New Caledonia.

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