French journalist denies blackmailing Morocco’s King

French journalist denies blackmailing Morocco's King

One of two French journalists accused of attempting blackmail by threatening to publish a book about Morocco’s King Mohammed, said on Monday payment and a contract for not publishing the book was offered to him and his co-author by a member of the king’s entourage.

A French judicial source told Reuters on Saturday the two freelance journalists, Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet, who had previously published a book criticising the monarch, were placed under investigation on Friday evening and released from custody overnight.

The king’s lawyer Eric Dupont-Moretti, told RTL radio on Friday, that during a meeting with a member of the king’s entourage the journalists asked for 3 million euros ($3.4 million) not to publish the upcoming book.

But Laurent who said he had been caught in a trap, said it was a palace official who had made him the offer, which he accepted.

“I did not propose this deal, it was proposed to me, insidiously. It was clear that the goal was not to make a deal with me but to trap me. I accepted this deal and it was a personal deal, it’s a transaction. It’s my work. I have the right to publish it or I have the right also to not publish it,” he told RTL radio.

“He (a member of the king’s entourage) is the one who is implying and says “this book is very embarrassing for us, would you accept a deal?” I accept the deal,” he said.

“My co-author totally agreed. The opposite camp transformed a private transaction into what they call blackmail or an attempted blackmail by me, but this is absurd,” he added.

Under French law, being placed under formal investigation indicates there exists “serious or consistent evidence” pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime.

Dupont-Moretti did not say what information the new book contained. The pair’s first book published three years ago was entitled “The Predator King” and focused on corruption in the Morocco.

The journalists’ publisher, Editions du Seuil said on Monday that they would not publish the book and that the relationship of trust with the journalists was broken, local media reported.

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