New Caledonia independence activist to be held in custody in mainland France

Christian Tein, a pro-independence leader in the French Pacific territory New Caledonia will be held in France after being charged Saturday over deadly riots last month, his lawyer said. Tein was one of at least three pro-independence activists facing a transfer in custody to mainland France.

Tein, the head of Cellule de Coordination des Actions de Terrain (CCAT), will be sent almost 17,000 kilometres (10,500 miles) to France with the group's communications chief Brenda Wanabo.

An investigating magistrate charged Tein in New Caledonia's capital Noumea on Saturday. He was the first from a group of 11 people arrested Wednesday to be charged over the violence, in which nine people died, including two police.

Hundreds more were wounded, and around 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) of damage was inflicted during the troubles.

Authorities did not immediately say what charges Tein faces, although Noumea chief prosecutor Yves Dupas said his investigation covered armed robbery and complicity in murder or attempted murder.

Tein's lawyer Pierre Ortent said he was "stupefied" that his client would be sent to a prison in Mulhouse in eastern France. Wanabo's representative Thomas Gruet said she would be sent to Dijon.

Dupas confirmed that some of those arrested on Wednesday would be transferred to custody in France, without giving names.

"No-one had any idea in advance that they would be sent to mainland France. These are totally exceptional steps" for New Caledonia, Ortent said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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