“I am a political prisoner,” proclaims Kanak leader Christian Tein: News

“I am a political prisoner,” declared Christian Tein, the Kanak spokesperson for the Cellule de coordination des actions de terrain (CCAT) in New Caledonia, imprisoned in Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin), on Monday during a visit by two senators which an AFP correspondent was able to attend.

Arriving a week ago at the Mulhouse-Lutterbach penitentiary center, Christian Tein, suspected of having orchestrated the unrest against electoral reform in New Caledonia, received an unscheduled visit from two senators, which a journalist from Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, correspondent for AFP, was able to attend.

Christian Tein, charged in particular with complicity in attempted murder and criminal association with a view to preparing a crime, was able to speak freely about his conditions of incarceration.

“I was in police custody at the Noumea gendarmerie and I learned from the judge of liberties and detention that I would be going to solitary confinement near Mulhouse,” said the 56-year-old man who has always denied calling for violence, wearing grey training bottoms, a white t-shirt and glasses on the tip of his nose.

– “Endless journey” –

“I understood that we had to find some peace after all this media coverage. We don’t have time to prepare for anything,” he told Green senators Jacques Fernique (Bas-Rhin) and Anne Souyris (Paris).

“I arrived here, it was the center that provided me with the first things to change into. The journey was endless and I was handcuffed on the plane. It was difficult. I’m starting to find my bearings. I also needed to rest, to have something calm for the moment. The staff is super nice, for the moment it’s okay.”

During this interview, Christian Tein was not allowed to discuss his role in the unrest that paralyzed New Caledonia.

He nevertheless adds: “I am a political prisoner, and the first to be extradited in this way with my comrades.”

“I was able to call my lawyer in Noumea but it’s complicated, there’s the time difference. I have to contact a lawyer here,” continued prisoner number 5106. “I also had contact with my partner who will arrive in France and here this Thursday. I hope I will be able to see her in the coming weeks. She is outside of any political framework.”

Mr Tein also said he was “worried” about his comrades who were arrested and extradited at the same time as him. “I would like to know if the situation is going well” for them.

For the time being, Christian Tein is not allowed visitors, but he tries to live almost normally: he watches television and follows the news. For the elections, he even voted… by proxy.

It was the senators who informed him of the results of the first round in New Caledonia and announced that Emmanuel Tjibaou had come out on top in the second constituency (his own) with just over 44% of the votes. “My vote will have finally been of some use,” smiles Christian Tein.

– “Resume discussions” –

His situation within the Haut-Rhin establishment should quickly evolve. On Wednesday, he should be able to meet other people in isolation as part of activities (board games, animal mediation, chess, lessons, etc.).

“In the meantime, I read, I saw a chaplain this morning and he gave me a Bible. I also took books from the library. But that does not replace human contact,” he says.

A philosopher, he does not fail to open a small parenthesis: “At some point, we will have to sit down around a table again to resume discussions. The survival of New Caledonia depends on it.”

Since the start of the unrest in New Caledonia linked to the constitutional reform on the thawing of the electoral body criticised by Kanak independence supporters, 1,520 people have been arrested, according to the High Commission of the Republic in the archipelago.

Eleven pro-independence activists were arrested on June 19. Nine of them were placed in pre-trial detention, including seven in various prisons across France.

The violence, the most serious to have occurred in the archipelago since the 1980s, left nine dead, according to the latest figures from the authorities, and caused considerable material damage (fires, destruction, looting, etc.).

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