French journalists in court over alleged blackmail of Moroccan king

© Moroccan Royal Palace / AFP

Two French journalists have gone on trial in France on charges of trying to blackmail the king of Morocco – allegedly demanding money to hush purportedly damaging revelations about him.

Eric Laurent, 75, and Catherine Graciet, 48, are accused of demanding €2million in 2015 in exchange for halting the publication of a book about the Moroccan royal family.

Both writers, who face up to five years in jail and €75,000 in fines if found guilty, have denied any wrongdoing and say it was a lawyer representing the Moroccan royal family who first offered them the money.

In court on Monday Laurent admitted to an "ethical error", a "disaster" in having accepted to "let myself be caught up in this affair", but denied having committed "any criminal offence".

Co-author Graciet said that the Moroccan envoy "seduced me with his financial offer, I took the plunge and I regret it".

'Embarrassing revelations'

The writers had already published a highly critical book on King Mohammed VI in 2012 titled "The Predator King", which was banned in Morocco.

Ahead of the planned publication of a second volume, Laurent met a lawyer representing the monarchy at the bar of a Parisian hotel in August 2015 and warned him it contained potentially embarrassing revelations for the monarchy.

Morocco accuses the journalist of offering to halt the book's publication, originally due in early 2016, in exchange for €3million.

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