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
0

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.


British lawmaker calls for Asma Assad to be stripped of British citizenship 

Updated 41 min 46 sec ago
0

British lawmaker calls for Asma Assad to be stripped of British citizenship 

  • The MP of the Liberal Democrats, Tom Brake, wrote to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, urging her to use her powers to deny Asma Assad of her citizenship
  • Asma used social media to support her husband’s leadership after a global condemnation of his alleged role in a chemical weapons attack on civilians

A prominent British politician has called for Asma Assad, the British wife of the Syrian President, Bashar Assad, to be stripped of her UK citizenship. 

The foreign affairs spokesman of the centrist party, the Liberal Democrats, Tom Brake, wrote to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, urging her to use her powers to deny Asma Assad of her citizenship after her social media posts in support of her husband’s regime.

 “The first lady of Syria has acted not as a private citizen but as a spokesperson for the Syrian presidency... Boris Johnson has urged other countries to do more about Syria, but the British government could say to Asma Assad, either stop using your position to defend barbaric acts, or be stripped of your citizenship,” Brake was cited by British daily the Guardian as saying.  

Asma used social media to support her husband’s leadership after a global condemnation of his alleged role in a chemical weapons attack on civilians.

She posted a message saying: “The presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic affirms that what America has done is an irresponsible act that only reflects a short-sightedness, a narrow horizon, a political and military blindness to reality and a naive pursuit of a frenzied false propaganda campaign.”

Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, also joined the call to revoke her British nationality, calling Asma “very much part of the propaganda machine that is committing war crimes.”

Asma was born and raised in London to Syrian parents and left the UK in 2000 to live in Syria where she married Assad.