Paris court sentences two writers over 'blackmailing' Moroccan king
A Paris court has sentenced two French journalists to one year suspended sentence for blackmailing the Moroccan king over not publishing a "scandalous" book they wrote regarding the Alaouite Royal Family.
Eight years into the case, renowned French journalists and authors Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet were found guilty Tuesday of demanding money in return for the non-publication of a second volume of their book "The Predatory King," first published in 2012.
Paris criminal court (tribunal correctional) sentenced the two journalists to one year in prison suspended sentence, and a fine of 10,000 euros (US$10,577).
The journalists, whose lawyers immediately appealed, denied having made any threat but admitted having made an "ethical error" by accepting a proposal for a financial arrangement from Rabat.
Eric Laurent, 75, and Catherine Graciet, 48, were arrested in August 2015 after receiving a two million euro transaction to not publish 'scandalous revelations' about the Moroccan monarchy.
Following the scandal, the Éditions du Seuil decided not to publish the book as its "relationship of trust" with the authors had been "dissolved."
In the summer of 2015, Eric Laurent, a former reporter for Radio France, contacted the secretariat of the King of Morocco to obtain an appointment.
The meeting finally took place on 11 August with an emissary of the monarchy, the Moroccan lawyer Hicham Naciri.
During this meeting, Laurent announced the forthcoming publication of a second book on Moroccan King Mohammed VI, containing potentially "embarrassing" information for the monarchy.
After this first meeting, Morocco logged a complaint, and an investigation was launched. Then two other meetings were held under police surveillance on 21 and 27 August.
Catherine Graciet, a renowned author of books on the Maghreb, was only present at the third interview, during which the two journalists had signed a financial agreement of 2 million euros to give up the book.
At the end of this interview, they were arrested with two envelopes, each containing 40,000 euros in cash.
For the court, the journalists had a "joint approach" and exerted "pressure" on the emissary, describing a "devastating" book for the kingdom.
According to the court's judgment, "a price for silence" was requested by the journalists, not by the kingdom. The three meetings had been recorded by the Moroccan kingdom's envoy Hicham Naciri.
"Eight years after the facts, the Kingdom of Morocco has won its case, and the truth of this affair is coming to light: an attempt at blackmail and manipulation," said Me Ralph Boussier, one of the monarch's lawyers, in a press release.
Meanwhile, Laurent's lawyer Serge Portelli said he "hoped" that the magistrates of the Court of Appeal "will try to think about this manipulation which was obvious and of which they'rer] clients are victims".
"The truth will come out later," he assured.