Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior lies scuttled in Auckland harbour.
Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior lies scuttled in Auckland harbour. Greenpeace

DAY IN HISTORY: Rainbow Warrior sunk by French agents

THE world was shocked when Greenpeace protest boat Rainbow Warrior was sunk by French agents in Auckland, New Zealand on July 10, 1985.

The boat, the flagship of the international conservation group, was moored in the harbour as the group prepared to sail to try and halt a French nuclear test in the South Pacific.

But the boat was scuttled when two French frogmen attached a bomb to the hull, killing Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira, who was still aboard the vessel.

French authorities immediately denied responsibility for the bombing, and continued to do so even after New Zealand authorities arrested two agents, Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart.

Eventually, the French Government announced an inquiry which found that the two French agents had merely been spying on the group.

But after a report exposed the truth about the incident - that French President Francois Mitterrand had authorized the bombing - the government were forced into an embarrassing and costly backflip, with the aftermath claiming a number of Mitterrand's cabinet and an admission by Prime Minister Laurent Fabius.

Prieur and Marfat pleaded guilty to the charges of manslaughter and willful damage and were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But after negotiations between the two countries, the pair were released the following year.


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