Fernando Pereira

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For other people named Fernando Pereira, see Fernando Pereira (disambiguation).
Fernando Pereira

Fernando Pereira (Chaves, Portugal, May 10, 1950 – Auckland, New Zealand, July 10, 1985) was a freelance Dutch photographer, of Portuguese origin, who drowned when French intelligence (DGSE) sabotaged and sank the Rainbow Warrior ship, owned by the environmental organisation Greenpeace on July 10, 1985.

The bombing of the boat had been designed to make the ship unsalvageable. The first smaller bomb bent the shaft, making repair uneconomic. Pereira stayed inside the boat to get his camera and other pieces of equipment. The second, more powerful explosion, designed to sink the boat, caused a huge inrush of seawater and drowned Fernando.

The Rainbow Warrior led a flotilla of yachts protesting against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia and was about to depart Auckland for a campaign of legal demonstrations in international waters near the French military operational areas at Moruroa Atoll.

The night of the bombing[edit]

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior lay moored at Auckland's Marsden Wharf on Wednesday, 10 July 1985. It had arrived in New Zealand from Vanuatu three days earlier - a week after President Haruo Remeliik had been assassinated in Palau. Greenpeace campaigners were preparing the former North Sea fishing trawler for the environmental group's biggest-ever protest voyage to Mururoa, one which they hoped would alert the world over France's nuclear testing and radioactive poisoning of the oceans. On board, supporters celebrated the 29th birthday of Steve Sawyer, the American co-ordinator of the Pacific Peace Voyage.

Unknown to the Greenpeace activists, French secret agents Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, had set off in an inflatable dinghy across the 2 km stretch of the harbour from Mechanics Bay. When they arrived, they both swam underwater with the bombs, clamp and rope to the stern of the Rainbow Warrior. Tonel attached the smaller, 10 kilo bomb to the propeller shaft. Camurier fixed the clamp on to the keel and ran out a rope to pinpoint a spot to attach the larger bomb next to the engine room.

The hull explosive would sink the ship, the propeller mine would cripple it. Both bombs were timed to explode in just over three hours, at 11.50 pm. The explosives laid, the Frenchmen headed back to their hidden Zodiac.

The first blast ripped a hole the size of a garage door in the engine room. The force of the explosion was so powerful that a freighter on the other side of Marsden Wharf was thrown five metres sideways. As the Rainbow Warrior rapidly sank until the keel touched the harbor floor, the shocked crew scrambled on to the wharf. But Pereira dashed down a narrow stairway to one of the stern cabins to rescue his expensive cameras. The second explosion probably stunned him and he drowned with his camera straps tangled around his legs.

Fernando's daughter, Marelle, aged eight at the time of his death, in June 1995 appealed in the French newspaper Libération to anybody who was involved in the bombing operation to tell her fully what had happened in the bombing. "Now I am 18, I am an adult and I think by now I have the right to know exactly what events transpired surrounding the explosion which cost my father his life", she wrote.[1] She also travelled to New Zealand to interview former Prime Minister David Lange and Greenpeace campaigners who sailed on the Rainbow Warrior.[2]

Subsequent updates[edit]

On the twentieth anniversary of the sinking, it was revealed that the French president François Mitterrand had personally authorized the bombing.[3] Admiral Pierre Lacoste made a statement saying Pereira's death weighed heavily on his conscience. Also on that anniversary, Television New Zealand sought to access a video record made at the preliminary hearing where the two agents pleaded guilty. The footage has remained sealed on the court record since shortly after the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. The two agents oppose release of the footage – despite having both written books themselves on the incident – and have taken the case to the New Zealand Court of Appeal and, subsequently, the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

In 2006, Antoine Royal, brother of the French presidential candidate Segolene Royal, revealed in an interview that their brother, Gérard Royal, a former French intelligence officer, had been the agent who put the bombs on the Rainbow Warrior.[4][5]

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