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FRANCE - MOROCCO

French journalists accused of blackmailing Moroccan king

Mohammed VI, King of Morocco on June 19 2015.
Mohammed VI, King of Morocco on June 19 2015. REUTERS/Maghreb Agence Press/Pool

Two French journalists were arrested on Thursday in Paris on suspicion of trying to blackmail the king of Morocco. Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet are under investigation for attempted extortion after allegedly accepting money in exchange for a promise not to publish a book containing damaging revelations about King Mohammed VI.

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On 23 July Laurent informed the Moroccan palace that he was publishing a book about the kingdom.

A couple of days later he met one of King Mohammed VI's lawyers and a deal was struck to the tune of three million euros, sources have told the AFP new agency.

However, the Moroccan royals made a formal complaint to France and a preliminary investigation was opened.

Other meetings followed, this time under surveilllance by investigators which led to the arrest of the two journalists, who both accepted money, according to Eric Dupond-Moretti, a lawyer for the Moroccan government.

"It's the first time I've ever seen someone, who says they're a journalist, openly conduct bribery against the state - it's outrageous!" Dupond-Moretti told French radio station RTL.

Dupond-Moretti went on to speculate that the journalists might be being manipulated by a terrorist group.

"We don't have access to the case files and so have only a few elements to go on but it looks like a put-up job," Graciet's lawyer Eric Moulet told Le Monde newspaper.

Laurent and Graciet have both written a number of other books, and cowrote another book about King Mohammed VI in 2012 called Le Roi prédateur (The Predator King).

In 1993 Graciet published a book of interviews with the present king's father, Hassan II, La  Mémoire d'un roi (The Memory of a King).

Publishers Editions du Seuil confirmed that the pair were working on another book slated for publication early next year.

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