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Paris Court Sentences French Mercenary for Coup Attempt in Comoros


A Paris court Tuesday handed former French mercenary Bob Denard a five year suspended prison sentence for organizing a coup attempt in the Comoros islands over a decade ago. The court also implicated France's secret services in the affair.

Bob Denard is perhaps France's most infamous and colorful mercenary, blamed for participating in bloody African conflicts over more than four decades. Denard's name has been associated with conflicts in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Benin, Angola, Zaire and the Comoros islands off the East African Coast.

Today, Denard is an old man of 77 years with a limp and Alzheimer's disease and his past has caught up with him.

In 1993, he received a suspended prison sentence for organizing a failed coup attempt in Benin. In 1999, he was cleared in the 1989 assassination of Ahmed Abdallah, the first president of Comoros. But Tuesday, Denard received a second suspended sentence for participating in another failed coup attempt in Comoros, in 1995.

Denard had tried to overthrow that country's government with 26 other men who arrived on the islands on inflatable boats. But his coup attempt failed a week later, after French troops intervened and arrested the mercenaries.

On Tuesday, a Paris court ruled Denard and the other men guilty Tuesday of associating with evil doers with the intention of participating in a crime - that is for taking former Comoros president Said Mohamed Djohar hostage during the coup attempt.

But the court also weighed in a slew of other mitigating factors that contributed to his relatively light suspended sentence. And it said the French secret services were aware of Denards coup plot.

Eric Morain, one of the defense lawyers, described the verdict as moderate and just.

Morain said the judgment took into account that the event took place more than 10 years ago, as well as the fact that the French secret service was clearly involved in the operation.

Comoros has weathered more than 20 coup attempts since its independence from France in 1975.