Photographers cleared in trial over Diana crash

A French court yesterday cleared three photographers of invading the privacy of Dodi Al Fayed when they took pictures of him with Diana, Princess of Wales, before and after their fatal car accident in 1997.

Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, who brought the case which led to the prosecution, is expected to appeal.

This was the second time that the three photographers- Fabrice Chassery, 36, Jacques Langevin, 50, and Christian Martinez, 49 - had been cleared of alleged offences connected with the night that Dodi, Diana and their driver died after the crash in a Paris underpass in August 1997. They were also among the 11 photographers who were cleared last year, without trial, of manslaughter and failing to help people in danger.

A court in Paris ruled yesterday that the trio had not infringed France's laws on privacy by taking pictures of the couple inside their limousine. The case concerned only Dodi's privacy because no complaint was made by Diana's relatives or the Royal Family.

The judgment appeared to reverse a ruling by a higher court that the interior of a car is a private place. The court said that the wreckage of a car which had crashed on a public road could not be considered "private". The judges also ruled that the pictures of the car's interior taken before the crash, which were seized by police and never published, did "not show any intimate action or behaviour" by Diana and Dodi. Nor could the pictures, if they had been published, have revealed a "secret love affair".

The relationship between Dodi and the Princess had been disclosed in the world's press that summer. The court ruled that the couple knew that they would "expose themselves to having their photo taken by leaving the Ritz Hotel".

The case concerned six photographs, two each taken by M. Martinez and M. Chassery after Dodi and Diana left the Ritz in a Mercedes, and two taken by M. Langevin of the couple lying injured in the wreckage. Valérie Rosano, who represented M. Martinez, said: "It is an excellent decision which confirms the principle of liberty of the press and the freedom of information."

Lawyers representing Mr Fayed said that he was likely to appeal to a higher court.

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