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First lady ready to answer on missing journalist

Video by Guillaume COUDERC , Louis MASSIE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-03-17

Simone Gbagbo, the wife of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, has agreed to meet the French judge investigating the 2004 disappearance of Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer - as long as the interview takes place in her own country.

Five years ago, Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer disappeared mysteriously in the Ivorian capital, Abdijan. Now a French judge is taking his investigation right to the top.

 

The Ivory Coast’s first lady, Simone Gbagbo, has been named on several occasions in the inquiry into the journalist’s alleged kidnapping and assassination, though she has always denied any involvement.

 

Having ignored French judge Patrick Ramaël's summons to appear for questioning in Paris last July, Gbagbo has finally agreed to meet the magistrate, albeit in Abidjan.

For her lawyer, Rodrigue Dadje, this is not a case of backtracking: “She has never changed her mind, she has never refused to be questioned. She decried the manner in which she was summoned. It is not the job of the French media to inform citizens who are requested to come in. It is for the judge to issue summons and then that person will have the opportunity to answer.”


Kieffer, 54, worked for several Ivorian newspapers as a freelance reporter, specialising in commodities and financial affairs. He had been investigating possible cases of embezzlement in the cocoa business, which he had reportedly traced back to top state officials.

He was abducted on April 16, 2004, in a car park in Abidjan, where he was due to meet the first lady’s brother-in-law. The latter, who has since sought asylum in France, claims he took part in the kidnapping.

According to this key witness, Kieffer was first held in the president’s palace and then led to a farm, where he was killed.

During a meeting with Kieffer’s wife in Paris in August 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to make the Kieffer affair a French priority.

Date created : 2009-03-17

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