Arson link to Pacific tests

September 8, 1995

One Friday night back in June Bosco Boscovich went out to dinner in Perth, Australia, with some friends from Curtin University. After a bottle or two of wine the talk turned to the decision by the French government to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Like most Australians, the students were outraged and there was a discussion about what sort of protests might prove most effective. That morning, 100 people had demonstrated peacefully outside the French consulate, housed in a turn-of-the-century home in west Perth.

But Boscovich decided peaceful protests were not enough so at about midnight he drove to the consulate and on the way bought enough petrol to fill two of the wine bottles. He fitted a rag in the top of each, lit them and threw the makeshift Molotov cocktails through a window. Then he drove home. At 4am, an explosion turned the consulate into a mass of flames, gutting the entire building and causing $500,000 worth of damage.

There were fears that this was the work of international terrorists and the honorary consul, Robert Pearce, and his family were placed under a 24-hour police guard.

But Boscovich was simply a 20-year-old design student at Curtin who appears to have drunk too much and decided to register his own protest.

Born in Zimbabwe as Michael Joesph Keenan, he came to Perth in 1981 with his parents and later changed his name so he might attract more attention in the competitive design market.

Police managed to track him down after he called journalists claiming to be from the "Pacific Popular Front".

He was arrested and last month appeared in court charged with arson.

The lawyer acting for Boscovich described him as a "gentle and talented humanities student whose actions were completely out of character".

"He is now suffering the most profound regret for his actions," the lawyer said. "He will raise no defence but wishes the court to be aware he is not connected with any terrorist organisation or anti-French movement whatsoever."

Boscovich declared he was ready to accept the appropriate penalty and was sentenced to three years in prison. Elsewhere, Australian students are continuing their own protests but in a more peaceful fashion.

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