Journalists Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet sentenced to 1 year in prison for blackmailing the king

The two French journalists prosecuted for trying to blackmail King Mohammed VI in 2015 have been sentenced to one year in prison and fined 10,000 euros.

Between a lack of journalistic ethics and the blackmail of the king, the Paris court has decided: Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet have each been given a 12-month sentence and a fine of 10,000 euros for the public action.

At the level of the civil action, the Kingdom’s request was deemed admissible while the two defendants were ordered respectively to pay jointly 1 euro to the Moroccan Kingdom. In addition, a fine of 5,000 euros was imposed on each of the defendants in the application of Article 475-1 of the CPP (Code of Criminal Procedure).

This verdict comes seven years after the facts, dating back to 23 July 2015, when Eric Laurent contacted the private secretariat of the King of Morocco to request an appointment, organized on 11 August in a Parisian palace with an emissary of the monarchy, the lawyer Hicham Naciri.

“I described the contents of the book to him”, which planned to evoke tensions in the royal family and accusations of financial embezzlement involving public companies in the country, says Eric Laurent, seated on a chair at the bar of the court. “I Naciri said to me: “All that doesn’t suit us”, and very quickly we switch to a transaction. He is the one who proposes, ”he says.

“That’s not how it happened”, replies Ralph Boussier, one of the lawyers for the Moroccan state, for whom it is indeed Eric Laurent who “evoked an arrangement”. The book project “never existed, they have no element to write it (…) The revelations that will shake the Kingdom of Morocco: where are they? There is nothing”, he argues, considering that the two journalists saw in an attempt at blackmail “an opportunity” to “change their lives”.

After this meeting, Morocco filed a complaint. An investigation was opened and two other meetings were organized under the supervision of judicial police officers, on 21 and 27 August. At the latter, in the presence of Catherine Graciet, the two journalists signed an agreement to withdraw the book project in exchange for 2 million euros. Before being arrested with 40,000 euros each in cash.

They then learned that the three meetings had been recorded by the king’s emissary. When confronted with the transcript of the first meeting, where he appears to be actively offering a sum of money, Eric Laurent dismisses it: “This recording is a fake.

The defense tried to prove via an expert report that the copy given to the investigators had undergone “a post-processing, impossible to specify”, but the defense appeals deeming it illegal were rejected in 2017.

“There is nothing to show that this recording has been modified, fragmented, or that there has been an assembly”, underlines the prosecutor.

The former journalist, now aged 75, acknowledged before the Paris criminal court “an ethical error”, “a shipwreck” for having “agreed to be drawn into this affair”, but not “the slightest criminal offense”.

The Moroccan emissary “had seduced me with his financial offer, I plunged and I deplore it”, agrees the other defendant Catherine Graciet, 48 years old, author of books on the Maghreb and Libya.

During their appearance in court on January 16 at the 10th correctional chamber in Paris, their arguments did not prevent the public prosecutor from requesting one-year prison sentences for each of the two

accused, together with a fine. of 15,000 euros.

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