Key witness charged in case of missing journalist

New York, June 2, 2004—A brother-in-law of Ivory Coast’s first lady has been formally charged as an accessory in the kidnapping, confinement, and murder of Guy-André Kieffer, a missing freelance journalist with both French and Canadian citizenship, according to international news reports. Michel Legré, the accused, has been in detention since May 25 in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Kieffer, who was also a commodities consultant specializing in Ivory Coast’s cocoa and coffee sectors, was last seen on April 16. He was on his way to meet Legré, who is the last person to have seen Kieffer, according to local press reports. The journalist’s family reported that he had received several death threats in the weeks before he disappeared.

A French judicial inquiry has been under way since May 3, after Kieffer’s wife filed a complaint in a Paris court. France and Ivory Coast have a bilateral treaty on judicial cooperation dating back to Ivorian independence in 1960.

In the days before he was detained, Legré testified for 10 hours before a French investigating judge and blamed people close to the Ivorian government for Kieffer’s disappearance, according to local and international press reports. On May 21, the French judge, Patrick Ramael, complained to the Ivorian state prosecutor that he has been unable to question the government officials that Legré implicated and asked the prosecutor to intervene.

While the government has charged Legré with murder, Kieffer’s body has not been recovered, and the government has yet to present evidence that he was killed.

For more information, see CPJ’s April 21 alert.