The French government has been accused of attempting to protect the paparazzi over their involvement in the aftermath of the 1997 Paris car crash which killed British royal, DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES. Seven potential key witnesses - all members of the paparazzi - have refused to give evidence to the inquest into the Princess' death, despite being among the first people to arrive at the scene of the accident on 31 August (97). And the French authorities have come under fire from the inquest's coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, for failing to summon the photographers to appear in London's High Court to tell their side of the story. On Wednesday (31Oct07), Lord Baker told the court: "I was certainly under the impression, at least until the end of last week, that... the witnesses would, at the very least, be required to come to court. The decision to respond to my international letter of request in the terms that I've disclosed to you was taken in the minister's office and at a high level and appears to have been a political decision." The French government is alleged to be concerned about the aggressive nature of the cross-examination at the inquest and has cited fears for "public order" if the snappers were summoned to give evidence. The inquest aims to establish whether Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed were simply the victims of a tragic accident, or if they were the targets of an assassination plot headed by the British royal family - as claimed by Fayed's father, tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed. The case continues.