French politician denies trying to murder rival

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A MAGISTRATE in the French Pyrenees has charged a local centrist politician with attempted murder after attempts to 'intimidate' a rival from the same party ended with the rival losing a leg in an explosion shortly before parliamentary elections last March.

An examining magistrate in Perpignan, charged Jean Xatard, a member of the centrist component of the conservative Union for French Democracy (UDF), and two other men for the attack on Jean Madrenas, the mayor of the village of Bages and the joint Gaullist-UDF candidate for a constituency in the Pyrenees-Orientales department. Another man has also been detained.

Mr Madrenas, 47, lost his left leg when a bomb exploded in his car as he turned the ignition key on 5 February. He had already lost his right leg in an accident during military service.

Until this week, there had been few public clues to the motive behind the attack. Mr Madrenas was defeated in the elections after press reports that he had been the victim of 'a settling of scores'.

On Tuesday the police took Mr Xatard, 42, along with Jean-Michel Paul and Francois Turlais, into custody. They were charged with the murder attempt on Thursday.

Mr Xatard is a town councillor in Amelie-les-Bains and was an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate in 1988 elections. In 1989, he ran for mayor in Amelie-les-Bains against his aunt who was the incumbent, but he was defeated. For infringing party discipline by standing for election against a party member, he was suspended from the Centre Social Democrats. Mr Xatard was said to have been disappointed that his own candidature had been passed over this year.

According to sources in Perpignan, Mr Xatard, despite confessions from the alleged accomplices, persisted in denying that he had taken them on to intimidate Mr Madrenas.

Last December Mr Madrenas was attacked in his home by two men who sprayed tear-gas in his eyes. When Mr Madrenas did not react, the investigators said, the attackers had apparently decided to kill him.