Frenchman accused of smuggling guns from Gaza to West Bank ‘tricked’

Romain Franck appears in court in Beersheba in march, to face charges of smuggling guns from Gaza. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Frenchman accused of smuggling guns from Gaza to West Bank ‘tricked’

BEERSHEBA, Israel: A Frenchman formerly employed by his country’s Jerusalem consulate and accused by Israel of smuggling guns between the Palestinian territories will argue he was “tricked,” his lawyer said Wednesday.
Romain Franck, who worked as a driver for the consulate, is standing trial for exploiting reduced security checks for diplomats to transport 70 pistols and two automatic rifles from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Shin Bet internal security agency said Franck, who was arrested in February, was motivated by money in the five instances he smuggled guns for a network involving several Palestinians.
Speaking after a hearing at the district court in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Franck’s lawyer Kenneth Mann stressed that his client’s actions were not those of an ideologue seeking to empower Palestinian militants in their battle with Israel.
Mann said his client had been “tricked” by his alleged Palestinian accomplices.
“He was scared, he is young and inexperienced,” Mann told reporters.
“He has no ideological or political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Shin Bet said Franck had been paid a total of around $5,500 for his efforts.
Israeli officials have stressed he acted on his own without the consulate’s knowledge, adding that diplomatic relations with France were not affected.
The Wednesday hearing was limited to procedural discussions. Franck attended but said nothing.


France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

Updated 25 April 2019
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France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

  • The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning

PARIS: Eight international NGOs including Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded on Thursday that France suspend the delivery of boats to Libya’s coast guard on concerns they would be used to intercept migrants.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had in February agreed to donate six boats to the Libyan navy, under which the coast guard operates, in a move she said was aimed at helping them “in the fight against illegal immigration.”

But the offer angered rights groups who said they would be used to block migrant boats seeking to reach Europe, forcing those on board to return to war-torn Libya.

The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning.

In it, the groups demand “the suspension of the decision” until the court decides whether or not the donation is legal. The court has 48 hours to make a decision.

The NGOs believe forcing people to return to Libya would expose them to “serious human rights violations.” Massimo Moratti, regional director for research at Amnesty International, said the pledge to deliver boats to the Libyan coast guard was “an unlawful and reckless decision.”

He said it was all the more dangerous at a time when fighting has intensified after Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli earlier this month.

“Doing it now, as the armed conflict in Libya escalates, is even more callous and irresponsible,” Moratti said in a statement, warning the donation would make France “complicit” in trapping people inside the country.

The NGOs accused the coast guard of having a bad track record in respecting those in distress at sea, saying it should not be given the logistical means to step up such abuses.

The statement accused the coast guard of abuses including pushing those in distress back into the water, threatening them with weapons and firing toward them.

The six vessels, which are to be delivered in the coming weeks, are 12-meter, semi-rigid boats made by French specialist Sillinger.

Besides Amnesty and MSF, the legal petition was joined by France’s Human Rights League, immigrant support group GISTI, Lawyers Without Borders, migrant aid groups La Cimade and Migreurop and Italian research and aid group ASGI.