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France trial of 42 accused in Angola illegal arms supply case begins

[JURIST] Trial proceedings began in Paris Monday in the case of 42 people, including the son of former French President Francois Mitterrand, allegedly involved in the so-called Angolagate [Global Witness report, PDF] scandal regarding the supply of illegal arms to the Angolan government between 1993 and 1998 in contravention of an international ban on weapons sales to the country. The 42 defendants are additionally accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks from the Angolan government in return for arranging nearly $800 million in arms shipments. Also included among the 42 defendants are Russian-Israeli billionaire Arkady Gaydamak and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua [French Senate profile, in French]. Angola is attempting to stop the court proceedings on the grounds that the trial will violate French law by exposing military secrets of a foreign country. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The Angolagate affair involved large-scale arms sales to the Angolan government during the civil between government forces led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos [BBC profile] and the UNITA [official website, in Portuguese] anti-communist movement, led by the late Jonas Savimbi. The Angolan civil war was largely a proxy war between Cuban communist-supported dos Santos government and the US-backed UNITA rebels. The Angolan government was supplied with arms, including rifles, land mines, grenades, and tanks.

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