'Names revealed' in probe into Canadianreporter disappearance in I Coast

26th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, May 25 (AFP) - An important witness has implicated several key players in Ivory Coast's political and financial circles in the disappearance last month of freelance journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, local media reported Tuesday.

ABIDJAN, May 25 (AFP) - An important witness has implicated several key players in Ivory Coast's political and financial circles in the disappearance last month of freelance journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, local media reported Tuesday.

Michel Legre, whose sister-in-law Simone is the wife of President Laurent Gbagbo, spent 10 hours testifying in front of French Judge Patrick Ramael during a recent trip by the jurist to Ivory Coast, the daily Le Jour reported in a story confirmed by judicial sources.

It was Legre whom Kieffer was alleged to be on his way to meet the day he disappeared from the main Ivory Coast city Abidjan. Media reported that Kieffer, a dual French and Canadian national and long-time Abidjan resident, was bundled into a car by uniformed men and driven away from a busy shopping center parking lot.

His cell phone has since been switched off and his car was discovered abandoned several weeks later at Abidjan airport.

Le Jour reported that prior to his departure from Abidjan on Monday, Ramael sent an official letter to Ivory Coast's attorney general asking to meet and interview key political and financial players in the west African state, including several who are close to the president.

Among the men named by Legre were Pastor Moise Kore, Gbagbo's "spiritual adviser", and Bertin Kadet, a former defense minister who is also a senior adviser to the president, the daily reported.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday accused the Ivory Coast government of blocking the French investigation.

The Paris-based non-governmental organization said in a statement that in his letter to Ivory Coast's attorney general Ramael complained of a "total blockage of his investigations" and asked for assistance in making witnesses testify.

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, Legre said that it was the French officials who had named names but that he "did not implicate anyone," complaining of the "rough" treatment he had received in his interrogation by Ramael.

Pro-government dailies including Notre Voie, the mouthpiece of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front, suggested Tuesday that Legre's testimony had been beaten out of him by French police.

Kadet used the Courrier d'Abidjan to respond to his alleged involvement in the case, commenting that "to kill someone you have to know him. I do not know Guy-Andre Kieffer."

A correspondent for the French-published bi-weekly Lettre du Continent, a newsletter devoted to African issues, Kieffer, 54, was an economics journalist who specialized in commodities including Ivory Coast's main export crop, cocoa.

He had also served on a consulting committee that advised the government about cocoa which has since fallen out of favor with the Gbagbo administration.

Several times, after particularly cutting articles appeared, Kieffer was excoriated by the pro-government wing of Abidjan's fiercely partisan press.

Only days before he disappeared, he confided to a friend that he had been receiving death threats.

For many in Ivory Coast, Kieffer's disappearance is a grim reminder of the murder in October last year of French radio correspondent Jean Helene, who was shot at point blank range by a police sergeant.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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