Police hold 26 over murder of French MP

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POLICE investigating the murder of a female MP in southern France rounded up 26 people yesterday, including a senior local politician.

Just before the funeral of Yann Piat, a National Assembly deputy for the centre- right Union for French Democracy (UDF), was held in Hyeres, near Toulon, police detained Joseph Sercia, vice-president of the local Var department council. A member of the same political party as Piat, who was shot dead on Friday, Mr Sercia had tried to take the nomination for her constituency in March's National Assembly elections.

Toulon police were reinforced from Paris and Marseilles. Charles Pasqua, the Gaullist Interior Minister, vowed that the killers would be found and punished 'whatever their level. No one is protected. I hope there won't be anyone from the world of politics. If there is, too bad.'

Piat was controversial, firstly because she had originally been elected to parliament in 1986 for the far-right National Front (FN). Her mother had been the companion of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the FN leader, in Indochina in the 1950s and Mr Le Pen called her his god-daughter.

After publicly breaking with Mr Le Pen in 1988, she was expelled from the FN and a year later she joined the UDF. Reports since her death suggest that she knew she was under threat because of a campaign she had led against local drug-dealing and mafia-style operations.

Yesterday's police round-up was inspired by Piat's diary, which police had found. Police say she kept a detailed record of appointments and impressions.