The Ivory Coast's first lady, Simone Gbagbo, gave evidence before French judges on Thursday on the fate of investigative journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, who disappeared in 2004 while investigating corruption and who is believed to be dead.
AFP - Ivory Coast's first lady, Simone Gbagbo, gave evidence Thursday to French judges probing the fate of investigative journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, who disappeared in 2004 and is believed dead.
Simone Gbagbo had originally said she wanted the meeting with the judges to take place at her home, and it was not clear earlier Thursday if she would turn up to give evidence.
In the end however, she agreed to be interviewed in the Supreme Court buildings, one of her two French lawyers, Georges Kiejman, told reporters.
The chief suspect in a case of alleged kidnapping and murder is Michel Legre, Simone Gbagbo's brother-in-law.
He was the last person known to have a meeting planned with Kieffer before the journalist vanished from the parking lot of a crowded shopping mall in Abidjan on April 16, 2004.
Legre faces charges of complicity, kidnapping and assassination for his alleged role in the abduction of Kieffer, a French-Canadian of dual national and longtime Abidjan resident.
Kieffer had been looking into corruption in the cocoa industry, Ivory Coast's main source of foreign income.
Neither Simone Gbagbo nor the head of state are suspected of being directly linked with Kieffer's disappearance.
Legre is the only suspect in custody apart from Jean-Tony Oulai, a man suspected of leading the group who kidnapped Kieffer.
Although the journalist's body has never been found, his briefcase and portable computer were allegedly discovered at Legre's home.
In his own testimony to the French investigating judges, Legre initially implicated senior members of Gbagbo's entourage, including Patrice Bai, who used to be in charge of presidential security.
But he later retracted those statements.
The French judges interviewed Bai on Tuesday, then met Simone Gbagbo's security chief Seka Yapo Anselme on Wednesday.
Before meeting the first lady on Thursday, they were due to hear Planning Minister Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabre. He and Simone Gbagbo earlier refused to travel to France to give testimony in the case.
Oulai is being held in preventive detention in France. Sources close to the case said that, according to Berte Seydou, Oulai's chauffeur, he was talking to Simone Gbagbo on the telephone at the moment of the kidnapping.
The first lady has filed a defamation case and in her 2007 autobiography "Paroles d'honneur" (Words of Honour), she defends herself from any part in the Kieffer case.
Date created : 2009-04-23