Reporters Without Borders today urged both the Ivorian and French authorities to cooperate with a French investigating judge’s request for Ivorian citizen Michel Legré, the leading suspect in the disappearance of French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer in April 2004 in Abidjan, to be transferred to France for two months for questioning.
"Legré’s transfer to France today offers the only hope of finding out the truth in this case," the press freedom organization said. "It is essential that the main suspect should be handed over to the French judicial authorities for questioning by Judge Patrick Ramaël and for that to happen, all the obstacles must be removed."
Reporters Without Borders called on the French foreign ministry to support the judge’s initiative instead of obstructing it.
"The request for Legré’s temporary transfer was made by Judge Ramaël on 13 December but, when he visited Côte d’Ivoire from 12 to 26 February, it still had not been received by the Ivorian authorities because it has been blocked by the French foreign ministry - whose job it is to forward it - and this is unacceptable," the press freedom organization said.
"It is still not too late, but Paris must now do everything possible to ensure that Legré can be questioned in France," Reporters Without Borders said.
Noting that events beyond Ramaël’s control held up his work and forced him to delay his trip to Abidjan, the organization added: "It would be incomprehensible if the French foreign ministry did not now demonstrate anew its commitment to solve this case."
Ramaël and fellow investigating judge Emmanuelle Ducos were not able to interrogate Legré satisfactorily during their stay in Abidjan. Legré’s lawyers were clearly obstructive, telling their client not to answer essential questions and preventing him from talking freely.
The brother-in-law of President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife, Legré was the last person to see Kieffer before he went missing. Ramaël charged him on 11 October with "abducting and holding" Kieffer. He is currently being held in an Abidjan detention centre.
Kieffer, 54, married and father of two children, was last seen around 1 p.m. on 16 April 2004 in an Abidjan shopping centre. He specialised in commodities and business, working for the French business daily La Tribune from 1984 to early 2002, when he moved to Abidjan and freelanced for La Lettre du Continent and several Ivorian newspapers.