Blow for French writers in Moroccan royal blackmail case

This file photo taken on August 29, 2015 shows a Moroccan man reading the latest issue of Al-Massae daily newspaper in Arabic with on its page portraits of the two French investigative journalists who have been charged in Paris with trying to blackmail the king of Morocco out of two million euros ($2.2 million) in hush money on August 29, 2015 in Rabat. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Blow for French writers in Moroccan royal blackmail case

PARIS: A French appeals court on Friday dealt a blow to two journalists accused of trying to blackmail the king of Morocco by ruling that secret recordings could be used as evidence against them.
Lawyers for French investigative journalists Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet argued unsuccessfully that tapes of conversations between them and a Moroccan official were inadmissible.
“It’s a very big victory,” Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the king told AFP. “There is no longer any obstacle to going ahead to conviction.”
Laurent, 69, and Graciet, 42, were charged with blackmail and extortion for demanding three million euros from Moroccan King Mohammed VI not to bring out a book purportedly containing damaging revelations about him.
They were arrested in Paris in August 2015 after a secretly recorded meeting with a Moroccan official at which they allegedly accepted payments of 40,000 euros ($47,000) each, a source close to the French investigation told AFP.
They were in possession of 80,000 euros in cash as they left the meeting, which occurred after the monarch had filed a case with Paris prosecutors.
The Moroccan government claims that the payment was the first instalment of a total of two million euros demanded by the authors in exchange for not publishing their book.
The journalists allegedly demanded three million euros initially, but reduced the figure after further negotiations. They deny the charges.
Laurent and Graciet published a highly critical book on Mohammed VI in 2012 titled “The Predator King” about his extensive business dealings which was banned in Morocco.
Their new book had been slated for publication in early 2016.
Laurent was previously recorded during two other meetings with the envoy, Hicham Naciri, a lawyer.
In an earlier preliminary hearing, the court judged the recordings were made with the “indirect participation” of French investigators “without the consent” of the two journalists, which it said contravened the principle of a fair trial.
But on Friday the court delivered its final ruling, saying police had played a “passive” role and could not be considered to have been “truly involved” in the bugging.
Investigating magistrates must now decide whether to send the case to trial or throw it out.


Moon says Kim agreed to allow nuke inspections

In this image made from video provided by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose after signing documents in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Moon says Kim agreed to allow nuke inspections

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have started their second day of summit talks in Pyongyang over the nuclear standoff and other inter-Korean issues
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in upon his arrival in Pyongyang for their third summit this year to improve ties and help resolve the nuclear standoff

SEOUL: North Korea has agreed to “permanently” abolish its key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, and is willing to close its main nuclear complex if the United States takes reciprocal action, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference following their summit talks in Pyongyang, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said they agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”
Kim said he will visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to the South’s capital by a North Korean leader.
The latest summit will be a litmus test for stalled negotiations on the North’s nuclear program between Pyongyang and Washington, and for another meeting Kim recently proposed to US President Donald Trump following their historic encounter in June in Singapore.
Moon was seeking to engineer a proposal that combines a framework for the North’s denuclearization and a joint declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” during his first encounter with Moon, and at his summit with Trump in June.
But discussions over how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered, with Washington demanding concrete action toward denuclearization by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang — declaring an end to the war.
North Korea has given no indication it is willing to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally and is seeking relief from crippling international sanctions.
North Korea has offered to stop nuclear and missile tests but did not allowed international inspections for a dismantlemnt of its only known nuclear site in May, drawing criticism that its action could not be verified and could be easily reversed.

ART TOUR
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing on Tuesday that Washington hoped the latest inter-Korean summit would bring about “meaningful, verifiable steps toward the denuclearization of North Korea” and called it a “historic opportunity” for Kim to follow through on commitments he made with Trump.
Later on Wednesday, Moon’s delegation will tour the Mansudae Art Studio, the North’s largest producer of art where state artists build statues and produce propaganda at a sprawling complex in Pyongyang.
The institution was sanctioned by the UN Security Council last year as part of global efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs by drying up its revenue sources.
Moon is also scheduled to watch the North’s signature “Brilliant Fatherland” Mass Game which was reintroduced this year following a five-year hiatus, with a formation of glowing drones, lasers and stadium-sized gymnastics shows designed to glorify the country.
The United States is pressing countries to strictly observe international sanctions, which will likely be a key theme when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosts a Security Council meeting on North Korea on Sept. 27 on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

“NEW ERA“
This week’s summit is intended to craft concrete steps to implement the Panmunjom Declaration, named after the border village where they first met, Seoul officials said.
The two Koreas also adopted a separate military accord aimed at preventing armed clashes between the old foes, which are technically still at war because the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
The neighbors have already agreed to withdraw some guard posts and equipment, in a bid to transform the world’s most heavily fortified border into a no-weapons area.
Pyongyang says it has destroyed its main nuclear and missile engine test site, and has halted atomic and ballistic missile tests, but US officials and analysts believe it is continuing to work on its weapons plans clandestinely.
South Korea is pinning high hopes on Kim’s remarks to Moon’s special envoys earlier this month that he wanted to achieve denuclearization within Trump’s first term in office ending in early 2021. Kim at the same time also stressed Washington must reciprocate his initial “goodwill” gestures.
“While Moon has expressed his desire to agree on a concrete plan on denuclearization, we believe that the two nations still differ on this concept,” said Anwita Basu, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In previous, failed talks, North Korea has said it could consider giving up its nuclear program if the United States provided security guarantees by removing troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from the South and Japan.
US officials involved in the latest negotiations have said North Korea has refused to even start discussions about defining denuclearization. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee and Soyoung Kim; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lincoln Feast.)