The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Diana crash paparazzi get legal clearance

Paris, Nov. 28 (Reuters): Three photographers who took pictures of Britainís Princess Diana and her friend Dodi al Fayed in their car on the night of their fatal 1997 crash did not break French privacy laws, a Paris court ruled today.

Christian Martinez of the Angeli agency, freelancer Fabrice Chassery and Jacques Langevin, who worked at the time for the Sygma agency, faced charges following a complaint by Dodiís father Mohamed al Fayed.

Both Martinez and Chassery took photographs of the two after their Mercedes had crashed in a tunnel following a pursuit by paparazzi on motorbikes through Paris. Langevin took shots of them shortly before the crash as they left Parisí Ritz hotel.

The case hung on a precedent in French law under which the interior of a car is deemed private, even on a public road.

Under the countryís strict privacy laws, the photographers could in theory have been jailed for a year and ordered to pay fines of 45,000 euros ($53,000). However the public prosecutor had requested only suspended prison sentences.

Similar charges against five other photographers had already been dropped.

The verdict follows fresh controversy in Britain following the revelation by Dianaís former butler, Paul Burrell, of a secret letter in which the princess predicted her own death.

Burrell said the princess had given him a letter written in October 1996 in which she said someone was planning to kill her in a car crash, in order to allow her estranged husband Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to remarry.

The report led Mohamed al Fayed, who has repeatedly claimed Diana and his son were murdered by the British secret services because their relationship embarrassed the royal household, to renew his call for a full public inquiry.

The British government has rejected the demand.

The Egyptian businessman lost his bid to have the photographers chasing the car tried for manslaughter when Franceís highest court ruled they were too far away to have caused the accident.

Evidence at the initial inquiry showed that the driver, Henri Paul, had been drunk at the time of the accident, something rejected by his parents.

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