The trial of French journalists in the case of the “embarrassing” book of the Moroccan monarch

On Monday, the trial of French journalists following the case of “attempting to blackmail” the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, in 2015, begins in exchange for not publishing a book containing information that may be embarrassing to Rabat.

The details of this case go back to the summer of 2015, which witnessed secret meetings in hotels, secret recordings, police surveillance, and envelopes of money.

In 2012, journalists Eric Laurent and Catherine Grassier published a book about King Mohammed VI, who was banned in Morocco.

In 2015, they signed a new publishing contract with the French publishing house Le Seuil to prepare a book on the same subject.

And on July 23, 2015, Eric Laurent contacted the Special Secretariat of the King of Morocco to get an appointment with him. The appointment was organized on August 11 with a Moroccan delegate, lawyer Hisham Nasseri, in a bar in a Parisian palace.

During this meeting, Laurent announced plans to publish the book in early 2016, which contains information that may be embarrassing to Rabat.

But accounts of what followed differ. According to the journalist, Nasseri offered him a financial agreement not to publish the book.

As for the Kingdom, whose defense lawyer was at the beginning of the trial, the current French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti, confirmed that the financial offer was put forward by the journalist, who demanded three million euros.

After this first meeting, Morocco filed a complaint in Paris, and an investigation was immediately opened.

Another meeting took place on August 21, 2015, between the envoy and Eric Laurent, at the same hotel, but it was under police surveillance.


A third meeting took place on August 27, 2015 in another hotel, in the presence of journalist Catherine Grassier.

It was then that they signed an agreement worth $2 million to give away their book, according to reports.

They stopped with 40,000 euros each in cash when they left the meeting with the king’s envoy, who recorded the interviews without their knowledge.

The recordings, which were deemed illegal by the journalists’ defense lawyers, were at the center of a procedural battle during the investigation. The appeals court rejected the appeal in November 2017.

Journalists Eric Laurent, 75, and Catherine Grassier, 48, were initially accused of extortion, and then benefited from dropping the charge at the end of the judicial investigation, which lasted nearly six years.

Laurent is a former correspondent for “Radio France”, “Le Figaro Magazine” and “France Culture”, and he has written many books, one of which is controversial and deals with the events of September 11, 2011. As for Grassier, she worked in Morocco and published books on Morocco and Libya.

During the investigation, they admitted to accepting a contract to “give up” the book whose geopolitical consequences “worryed” them, but they denied any threat or extortion.

“Ms. Grassier did not engage in any kind of extortion in this case and considers that she was a victim of a trap,” Grassier’s defense lawyer, Eric Moutier, told AFP.

“The defendants fell into a trap set by Moroccan intelligence,” said Serge Portelli, Laurent’s defense lawyer.

The lawyer for the Kingdom of Morocco, Antoine Veil, declined to make any statement.

The two defendants face a prison sentence of five years and a fine of 75,000 euros.

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