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Cote d’ivoire1 June 2004

Disappearance of Guy-André Kieffer : Judicial authorities charge man in apparent attempt to make him the scapegoat

Reporters Without Borders accused the Ivorian judicial authorities of "double standards" by charging a man today in the disappearance of French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer while refusing to question the people he has identified as having information about the case and blocking a French investigating judge’s attempts to question them himself.

By charging Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife, with "complicity in kidnapping ... illegal detention... [and] murder," it seems the judicial authorities want to make a scapegoat out of "an accomplice" and thereby avoid going after the people responsible for Kieffer’s disappearance, the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders also pointed out that either the judicial authorities had acquired new information in the case without sharing it with French investigating judge Patrick Ramaël, or they had charged Legré on the basis of the existing information instead of questioning the other persons named by Legré, as Ramaël had demanded.

The organisation also voiced astonishment that Legré was additionally charged with "defamation" on the basis of statements he made to officials investigating the case, and it called on the authorities to ensure that, as the main witness, he is given adequate protection.

It is also worth noting that, despite the complaint brought by Kieffer’s family and Reporters Without Borders, the authorities did not open a judicial enquiry until 27 May - more than 40 days after Kieffer’s disappearance - and when they finally did so, it was with the evident goal of intimidating a witness instead of going after the truth.

Legré, who is being held in detention centre in Abidjan, was the last person to see Kieffer before his disappearance. In two interviews with the French judge, Ramaël, during Ramaël’s visit to Ivory Coast, Legré named at least eight people who he said were involved in Kieffer’s kidnapping. But Ramaël’s requests to interview these people got nowhere and he complained to the Abidjan state prosecutor of "a total block in my investigations."

A freelance journalist based in Abidjan, Kieffer has been missing since 16 April 2004. He was seen for the last time at around 1:00 p.m. in a commercial centre in the capital. His car disappeared, his mobile phone has been cut off and he has not contacted anyone.

Aged 54, married and the father of two children, Kieffer specialised in commodities, economy and finance. He worked for the French financial daily La Tribune from 1984 to the beginning of 2002. Since then he has been a freelance reporter in Abidjan, writing for La Lettre du Continent and several Ivorian newspapers.

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