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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
French 'dog of war' spared jail
Bob Denard at Paris' court on 20 February 2006
Bob Denard is a veteran of African civil wars
A French court has given a five-year suspended jail sentence to ex-mercenary Bob Denard for his part in an abortive 1995 coup in the Comoros Islands.

He was on trial along with 26 alleged accomplices. Mr Denard, 77, a veteran of African conflicts, has Alzheimer's and was not present at the trial.

French troops quickly ended the coup, freeing the captive Comoros president and arresting the mercenaries.

The co-defendants got lesser sentences, but four will not be punished.

Mr Denard was found guilty of "belonging to a gang who conspired to commit a crime".

He had previously been involved in armed activity in Yemen, Benin, Gabon and what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Conspiracy

Prosecutors said he took part in an operation in September 1995 in which the then President of the Comoros Islands, Said Mohamed Djohar, was taken hostage.

A MERCENARY IN AFRICA
Played a part in four successful coup attempts in the Comoros
Was active in what is now DR Congo, Yemen, Benin, Gabon
Used bicycles and inflatable boats in his operations

The president was freed unharmed after the French government - acting under a co-operation treaty with the islands - sent troops to crush the revolt.

Back in France, the mercenaries were accused of criminal conspiracy.

Despite Mr Denard's illness, a court medical report found that he should be tried in his absence.

His lawyer argued he had been made a scapegoat by the French state.

The court heard claims - denied by France - that the attempted coup had the backing of the French secret services.

Mr Denard has been tried before over his involvement in a previous coup in the Comoros Islands in 1989, during which another president was assassinated. But at his trial 10 years later he was acquitted of the murder.

The Comoros have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups, beginning just weeks after independence from France in 1975.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Comoros
30 May 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Comoros
16 May 06 |  Country profiles
Dogs of war into doves of peace
11 Nov 02 |  Africa



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