New Caledonian activists transferred to France to face charges over deadly riots

Seven independence activists linked to a group accused of orchestrating deadly riots last month in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia have been sent to mainland France for pre-trial detention.

According to a statement released on Sunday by Yves Dupas, the public prosecutor in the territory's capital Nouméa: "This transfer was organised during the night by means of a plane specially chartered for the mission."

The seven have been sent to mainland France, he added, "due to the sensitivity of the procedure and in order to allow the investigations to continue in a calm manner, free of any pressure".

Among the seven detainees was Christian Tein, head of the pro-independence group CCAT, who was charged Saturday over the recent violence in which nine people died, including two police officers.

Hundreds more were wounded, and around €1.5 billion of damage was inflicted during the unrest over controversial voting reforms.

Authorities did not immediately specify what charges Tein faces.

Speaking on Saturday, Tein's lawyer Pierre Ortent said he was "stupefied" that his client was being sent to France, accusing magistrates of "answering to purely political considerations".

'Colonial justice'

"People are experiencing this, once again, as the expression of colonial justice, a colonial prison and a colonial state," he added.

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