Jean-Luc Kister has a not-so-little confession to make—that as a French spy, he planted the explosives that sank a Greenpeace ship thirty years ago and took the life of a Portuguese photographer, NPR reports. "Now that emotions have subsided and also with the distance I now have from my professional life, I thought it was the right time for me to express both my deepest regret and my apologies," Kister tells Mediapart. His biggest apology, he says, is to photographer "Fernando Pereira's family, in particular his daughter Marelle, for what I call an accidental death and what they consider to be an assassination." It was the night of July 10, 1985, when two explosions rocked the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior while it was docked in New Zealand.
Kister says he and another frogman were under orders from the French spy agency DGSE when they planted two limpet mines to the ship's hull in Auckland, France24 reports. Their goal: stop the ship from reaching the Mururoa Atoll, about 750 miles from Tahiti, and protesting French nuclear testing. In fallout from the attack, two other agents involved got jail terms in New Zealand (but were soon sent back to France) and French defence minister Charles Hernu was forced to resign. Now, with Kister's role revealed, Greenpeace has issued a statement in French: "Nothing will bring back Fernando Pereira, but to honor him is a duty," it reads. "An apology from Col. Jean-Luc Kister will not return Fernando but they prove once again that our comrade is an innocent man."