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Cote d’Ivoire23 July 2004

Government still blocking search for journalist Guy-André Kieffer 100 days after disappearance

Reporters Without Borders today accused the Ivorian government of "still doing all it can to ensure the truth never emerges" about the April disappearance of French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer and said impunity remained the rule in Côte d’Ivoire.

The promise to the journalist’s family that everyone involved in the case could be questioned had been broken and was "just a trick to appease international public opinion," it said.

Kieffer, 54, a French-Canadian freelance economics reporter based in Abidjan since early 2002 and writing for the Paris-based newsletter La Lettre du Continent and several Ivorian publications, was last seen in an Abidjan shopping-centre on 16 April - 100 days ago on July 25. Married with two children, he had worked for the French business daily La Tribune from 1984 until he came to Côte d’Ivoire.

Despite the government’s obstruction, Ivorian and French investigators have made some progress. Michel Legré, brother-in-law of President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife Simone and the last person to see the journalist alive, implicated finance minister Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré when he appeared recently before Judge Patrick Ramaël, the chief French investigator.

He said the minister personally handed him an envelope containing one million CFA francs (1,500 euros) just a few hours after Kieffer disappeared.

The judge has established that Legré, currently in jail in Abidjan in connection with the case, returned to the shopping centre hours after the disappearance and then went to the airport, where Kieffer’s car was found in the car-park three weeks later.

Ramaël has complained to his Ivorian opposite number, Judge Koffi Kouadio, that the authorities have not allowed him to question two soldiers mentioned by Legré, on grounds that their superiors could not find them. Mrs Gbagbo’s security chief, Anselme Seka Yapo, and the president’s defence adviser, Bertin Gahié Kadet, have also refused to be questioned by Ramaël.

The French judge has also examined Kieffer’s computer, which Legré handed over to the authorities, and found it had been switched on a few minutes after the journalist disappeared and that several files had been opened. His mobile phone messages had also been checked at the same time. This suggests he may have been kidnapped in connection with his work.

Judge Ramaël plans to go to Côte d’Ivoire for a third time in early September and will shortly make a new formal request to the authorities for permission to take evidence in connection with the case.

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