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Politics | Society

Senegal issues warrant for French judge

afrol News, 26 September - Senegalese authorities have issued an international arrest warrant on Thursday for a French judge who issued similar warrants against nine Senegalese officials over 2002 Joola ferry disaster which claimed 1,863 lives, local media reports have said.

A warrant of arrest came a day before the sixth anniversary of Africa's worst maritime disaster.

"The senior investigative judge issued on 22 September an international arrest warrant against the French judge Jean-Wilfrid Noel," state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Senegalese legal officials said the judge had abused his authority and undermined dignity of country by issuing arrest warrants to officials for a ferry which sank in 2002. Only 64 people survived when the ferry capsized on 26 September 2002.

Senegal's Justice Minister Madicke Niang said the nine were not responsible and that Senegal would do what it could to have warrants cancelled.

The move is part of a legal tit for tat between Dakar and former colonial ruler France after Noel two weeks ago issued international arrest warrants against Senegalese officials in connection with the Joola disaster.

The Joola capsized in stormy seas off Gambia at night while sailing between southern Senegalese territory of Casamance and capital Dakar. Licensed to carry 550 people, it had 1,927 passengers on board, including 22 French nationals, according to official figures.

A Senegalese government report concluded that the vessel operated by navy had breached safety standards in several areas, saying the army had also delayed a rescue operation, one that government said could have saved lives.

Those on board included school students and artists from around Senegal and people from Belgium, Cameroon, France, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Niger, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.

In 2003 a French court opened an investigation into the ferry disaster after families of French victims of the tragedy filed legal complaints for manslaughter and failing to help people in danger against the Senegalese authorities.

After the accident, several ministers and high-ranking military officers were fired and compensation offered to the families.

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