WELLINGTON • An apology from a French secret service agent does not absolve him of "cold-blooded murder" in helping to blow up the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in 1985, according to the ship's captain.
Mr Jean-Luc Kister had said sorry for his part in the bombing which killed Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira and sent Greenpeace's converted trawler to the bottom of Auckland harbour.
Mr Pete Willcox, the Rainbow Warrior's skipper 30 years ago, said that the former military diver's apology was genuine, but it should not obscure the harsh truth about the attack.
"I accept the apology. I think it was sincere... I hope that it allows him to sleep better and live his life out," Mr Willcox told Radio New Zealand yesterday. "But it doesn't change the fact he and his friends - (then) President Mitterrand and everybody that was part of that team who planned the operation and carried it out - are murderers. That should be part of the story."
Mr Kister, in an interview with French investigative website Mediapart on Sunday, said: "Thirty years after the event, now that emotions have subsided and also with the distance I now have from my professional life, I thought it was the right time for me to express both my deepest regret and my apologies.
"I have the blood of an innocent man on my conscience, and that weighs on me."
The Rainbow Warrior was docked in New Zealand en route to protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, about 1,200km south-east of Tahiti, when the attack took place.
Mr Kister was working for France's spy agency, the DGSE, which set off two limpet mines on the ship's hull.
He said the 12-man mission ordered by then French defence minister Charles Hernu was "disproportionate", but less drastic ways of damaging the ship were rejected.
Mr Pereira went below deck for his camera gear after the first explosion and drowned.
Mr Willcox rejected Mr Kister's suggestion that the photographer's death was accidental as he did not believe an elite military dive squad could bungle an operation so badly.
Two agents who took part - Mr Alain Mafart and Mr Dominique Prieur - were arrested in New Zealand shortly after the bombing but spent only a short time in jail under a deal reached with France. Mr Willcox said most of those responsible had never faced justice for their actions. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE