In the Wake of the Rainbow Warrior
Twenty years ago French secret agents sank the Rainbow Warrior at an Auckland wharf – killing one person – and then bungled their escape. The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior bombing was New Zealand’s 9/11, but the French side of the story has never adequately been told – until now.
With the arrest of agents Alain Marfart and Dominique Prieure the French Government’s role in the whole affair rapidly became known. The other French participants in the bombing managed to escape on board the yacht Ouvea - but Prieure and Marfart plead guilty to manslaughter charges and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
However a deal between the French and New Zealand governments saw them transferred to Hao Atoll but within three years they were both back in France.
To investigate why France felt the need to destroy the Greenpeace vessel before it could protest nuclear testing at Mururoa, film maker Jo Outrim travelled to Europe to talk to the main players.
"What interested me was why the French authorities thought they could get away this,” Jo explains.
"This was effectively state sponsored terrorism. Exploding bombs in foreign countries was a very big deal.”
In France she interviewed the ex-head of the French secret service the DGSE Admiral Pierre Lacoste; also Xavier Maniquet one of the Ouvea crew members, and Edwy Plenel a Paris journalist from "Le Monde” who wrote the story that lead to the sacking of Lacoste and the resignation of the Minister of Defence Charles Hernu.
Admiral Lacoste reveals that French President Francois Mitterand was fully aware of the mission to bomb the Ranbow Warrior and that he was the designated fallguy or scapegoat.
"The President said "it’s you who will go down and no-one else”.
Twenty years on Lacoste says he’s sorry the Rainbow Warrior was bombed and for the death of photographer Fernando Periera.
"It’s really a tragedy I will always regret it.”
Maniguet – who escaped arrest when questioned by police in Australia – like the rest of the agents on the yacht finally admitted his role in the mission. And how lucky he and the whole Ouvea crew were to have escaped arrest and kept his liberty.
"If it had been French legislation we would have all gone to jail for a very long time – because in France if we have a doubt we put you in prison and think later.”
French journalist Edwy Plenel explains the difficulty of investigating a government cover up in France.
"It’s a very bizarre situation which takes place very quickly. We guessed the French secret services did it, we feel it, but officially no, it’s not France. We have silence and lies.”
Another journalist Phillipe Chatenay from "Le Point” told the documentary makers: "Most of us in France, we went from saying ‘oh no this can’t be us’ to ‘damn they’ve been lying to us again’ – and this is pretty shameful.”
Significantly, the documentary also explores the Mururoa side of the story.
In Tahiti Jo Outrim interviewed a range of people including a Mururoa worker who can only now speak about his experiences inside the nuclear testing zone.
"They make you sign, just to keep it secret,” Pia Raymond says.
He worked on Mururoa from 1968 to 1996.
"The French Government is hiding, the reef has a big crack. You cannot say there are no leaks., It is leaking now.”
The documentary includes extraordinary and rare footage.
"We’ve managed to find some amazing images to support the interviews,” Jo explains. "I was amazed at how candid all of the participants were after twenty years.
"It was as though they thought the full story should finally be told."