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Christian Tein

Christian Tein, Pro-Independence Leader, Charged Over Deadly Riots in New Caledonia

Noumea, June 23, 2024, The Europe Today: Christian Tein, head of the pro-independence CCAT group in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, has been charged and will be detained in France following his arrest over deadly riots last month, his lawyer announced on Saturday.

Tein, along with three other activists, including the group’s communications director Brenda Wanabow, will be transported nearly 17,000 kilometers (10,500 miles) to France. Tein was charged by an investigating magistrate in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, and was the first of 11 individuals arrested on Wednesday to face charges related to the violence.

The riots, which erupted in mid-May over an electoral reform opposed by the indigenous Kanak people, resulted in nine fatalities, including two police officers. Noumea’s chief prosecutor, Yves Dupas, confirmed that the investigation encompassed charges of armed robbery and complicity in murder or attempted murder. Four of those arrested will be taken into custody in France, although names were not disclosed.

Tein’s lawyer, Pierre Ortent, expressed his shock over the decision to send his client to a prison in Mulhouse in eastern France. “No one had any idea in advance that they would be sent to mainland France. These are totally exceptional steps for New Caledonia,” Ortent stated.

Meanwhile, Thomas Gruet, representing Wanabow, said she would be sent to Dijon. Gruet emphasized that Wanabow, a mother of three, “never called for violence” and was “distraught” at being separated from her family.

Stephane Bonomo, the lawyer for another detainee, Gilles Joredie, criticized the prosecutor’s actions, claiming they were creating “martyrs for the independence cause.”

The unrest in New Caledonia was sparked by an electoral reform that the Kanak people argued would leave them in a permanent minority, jeopardizing their hopes for independence. The French government accused Tein’s CCAT of orchestrating the violence and deployed over 3,000 troops and police to the territory.