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.


Pakistan PM Imran Khan fires back after criticism from Donald Trump

Updated 19 November 2018
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Pakistan PM Imran Khan fires back after criticism from Donald Trump

  • Imran Khan tweeted that Pakistan had suffered 75,000 casualties and lost $123 billion in the “US War on Terror”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prime minister fired back Monday after President Donald Trump accused the country of harboring Osama bin Laden despite getting billions of dollars in American aid.
Imran Khan tweeted that Pakistan had suffered 75,000 casualties and lost $123 billion in the “US War on Terror,” despite the fact that no Pakistanis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the US has only provided a “minuscule” $20 billion in aid.
US commandos killed bin Laden in a May 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he had been living in seclusion in a house near a well-known military academy. Pakistan denies it knew bin Laden’s whereabouts prior to the raid, which was carried out without its knowledge. It later arrested Dr. Shakil Afridi, who had run a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to help the CIA confirm bin Laden’s whereabouts.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said “everybody in Pakistan” knew bin Laden was there and no one said anything despite the US providing $1.3 billion a year in aid. Trump said he had cut off the aid “because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us.”
The US and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to Islamic extremists and of harboring leaders of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan denies those allegations, pointing to the heavy toll of its war against the Pakistani Taliban, a separate militant group that carries out attacks inside Pakistan.
Khan said Pakistan’s tribal areas along the border have been devastated by years of war, with millions uprooted from their homes.
He also pointed to the logistical support Pakistan has provided for the US war in Afghanistan. The main overland supply route for American forces fighting in Afghanistan runs through Pakistan.
Khan said the US has made Pakistan a “scapegoat” for its failures in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are stronger than at any point since the 2001 US-led invasion.