ICoast detains three journalists over document theft

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Ivory Coast officials detained and charged three journalists, one a French national, for theft after their newspaper leaked details of an inquiry into the cocoa trade, their lawyer said Friday.

French national Theophile Kouamouo, the editorial director of Le Nouveau Courrier; and two senior editors, Stephane Guede and Saint Claver Oula, were charged with theft of an official document.

The charge arose from a story which ran Tuesday, quoting the findings of a judicial inquiry into corruption in the cocoa industry, which had been delivered to President Laurent Gbagbo.

The inquiry, launched by Gbagbo himself in October 2007, led to the arrest in June 2008 of about 20 senior industry officials on embezzlement and fraud charges. They are still awaiting trial.

Questioned by a state prosecutor, all three journalists refused to reveal their source for the story.

The three men are expected to appear in court next week.

Ivory Coast is the world's leading exporter of cocoa, which together with coffee makes up 40 percent of its export receipts, but management of the sector was greatly disrupted by the 2008 arrests.

© 2010 AFP

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