The French naval frogman who planted the bombs that sank the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior in 1985 has apologised for the death of the crewman aboard.
Jean-Luc Kister has broken his silence over the incident, telling France’s Mediapart and TVNZ’s Sunday program that now is the right time to speak up about the death of photographer Fernando Pereira.
“Now that emotions have calmed, and also with the hindsight I have regarding my professional life, I thought that this was a chance for me to express both my deepest regrets and my apologies,” Mr Kister said.
“First of all to Fernando Pereira’s family, in particular his daughter Marelle, for what I call an accidental death and what they consider to be an assassination.”
Mr Kister said he also wanted to apologise to the members of Greenpeace who were aboard the Rainbow Warrior when it was sunk and to the people of New Zealand.
In July 1985, the Greenpeace ship was in Auckland to head a flotilla of protest boats to Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia in a bid to disrupt French nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
Mr Kister said he was one of 12 members of France’s spy agency, the DGSE, ordered by then French defence minister Charles Hernu to sink the ship.
The two bombs attached to the Rainbow Warrior were “disproportionate”, but the idea of breaking the propeller shaft was rejected by the French government.
He said he was obeying orders at the time but now wanted to clear his conscience.
Two of the French agents who were caught, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, were sentenced in the High Court at Auckland to 10 years in prison for manslaughter, but were later transferred to French Polynesia and both were free within three years.
The skipper of the Rainbow Warrior, Peter Willcox, says no one has been held accountable for Mr Pereira’s death and France has never apologised for the bombing.