French Senate official charged with treason for spying for North Korea
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A senior French civil servant, Benoit Quennedey, has been charged with treason and spying for North Korea, a judicial source said Thursday.
He was charged with "treason for passing on information to a foreign power," a judicial source said, adding that he had been barred from leaving the country or continuing his work in the Senate.
He is being held at the headquarters of France's DGSI domestic intelligence agency on the outskirts of Paris.
The Senate said earlier that he had been suspended from his job as an administrator in the department of architecture, heritage and gardens, and that his office had been searched by police.
Quennedey has travelled extensively throughout the Korean peninsula, according to the website of his publisher Delga.
In a video posted on YouTube, he described impoverished, isolated North Korea as a "model for development", praising citizens' free access to education and health care.
"I've been there seven times since 2005, and in North Korea, you notice it, there's no litter on the ground," he says in the video.
Since 2007, he has been president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association, formed in the late 1960s by journalists sympathetic to socialist and communist causes.
The group pushes for closer ties with Pyongyang and supports the reunification of the divided Koreas.
Quennedey attended France's elite Sciences Po university as well as the ENA school which produces its top civil servants and political leaders.
A former classmate said Quennedey had been praising North Korea as a Utopian state for nearly 20 years and dismissing its perception as a dictatorial regime as an "American plot."