French court rules in favour of Morocco in extortion case

Paris/Rabat, Nov 11 (IANS) France’s highest court has ruled in favour of Morocco in an extortion case involving two French journalists, which can lead to their conviction.

The French Court of Cassation on Friday ruled that two clandestine recordings incriminating French journalists Catherine Graciet and Eric Laurent, who are being prosecuted for blackmail and extortion of money from King Mohammed VI, are admissible as evidence in the now two-year-old case.

The ruling is “a very great victory” for the Kingdom, “since there is no longer any obstacle to the prosecution of these journalists which can only lead to their conviction,” Patrice Spinosi, lawyer of the Moroccan party, told MAP news agency at the end of the hearing.

“Beyond the case of the Kingdom of Morocco, this decision enshrines the right of every victim to use any form of proof, including recordings,” he added.

Paris’ Court of appeal had rejected in February a request made by the lawyers of the French journalists to rule out tape recordings, according to which they would have asked for a sum of money in return for the non-publication of a critical book on the Kingdom.

The recordings confirm the extortion operation, the lawyer of the Moroccan party said at that time.

He had noted that besides tape recordings, the two journalists were arrested with a sum of 40,000 euros and signed a document acknowledging that they demanded two million euros to stop “systematically interfering in Morocco through their writings and actions”.

Eric Laurent had contacted the royal office to announce that he is about to publish, along with Catherine Graciet, a book on Morocco and that he is ready to give it up for the sum of three million euros.

After a first meeting between the journalist and the lawyer representing the Moroccan party, Morocco decided to file a complaint with the Paris’ public prosecutor.

A meeting with the French journalist was organized under the supervision of the police and the public prosecutor’s office, during which Eric Laurent’s remarks were recorded and pictures were taken.

During the third meeting, held under police supervision, Laurent and Graciet were given a sum of money, which they accepted and even signed a document in which they promised to never write about the kingdom.

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