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Answers sought on missing reporter in Ivory Coast

Answers sought on missing reporter in Ivory Coast

Six years after journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer vanished in broad daylight in the center of Abidjan, his face is all over town on billboards as part of an effort to find out his fate.
The words "Where is he?" loomed Friday from 15-foot-(5-meter)-tall billboards showing a photograph of Kieffer wearing dark glasses with a pair of binoculars dangling from around his neck.
The billboards were set up by France-based journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, a local advocacy group dedicated to his case and eight local newspapers.
Family and supporters hope the high-profile publicity blitz will revive the languishing investigation that has done little to confirm the fate of Kieffer, a dual French and Canadian citizen.
His family maintains he was targeted by the Ivoirian government for his reporting, and says he spent two days in a jail cell at the presidential palace after he went missing. The Ivoirian government denies any involvement in his disappearance.
France _ Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler _ opened an investigation into the case in 2004 and arrested several suspects. Ivory Coast also has charged a suspect in connection with the case who remains under house arrest.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy made it a state affair when he met with Kieffer's family in 2007, but those efforts have yielded few answers. On Thursday, a French judge ordered the release of a suspect in the French case.
Kieffer was last seen getting into a car with several unidentified people. At the time of his disappearance, Kieffer was investigating corruption in the cocoa trade, a touchy subject in Ivory Coast, which is the world's leading producer of cocoa.
Kieffer, who was 54 when he disappeared, had worked for the French economic newspaper La Tribune from 1984 until 2002. He then began working in Abidjan as an independent journalist, writing articles about corruption in Ivory Coast.
His family said elements in President Laurent Gbagbo's entourage wanted to eliminate Kieffer after several of his articles claimed that kickbacks from cocoa exports were being used to purchase arms for the civil war against rebels who had taken control of the northern half of the country.
"This whole affair centers on the presidential palace," Kieffer's brother Bernard said at a news conference held in Paris on Thursday.
Gbagbo's lawyer, Ange Rodrigue Dadje, disputed the family's version of events. He suggested Kieffer's disappearance was the result of a dispute between French citizens and did not involve Ivoirians at all.
Baudelaire Mieu, a local journalist who founded the group Truth for Guy-Andre Kieffer, said Kieffer was on his way to an appointment with the first lady's brother-in-law, Michel Legre, when he went missing.
Legre was arrested and imprisoned in Abidjan in 2004 after a prosecutor charged him with Kieffer's death after two days of questioning. The reporter's computer was later found at Legre's house. He remains under house arrest but no efforts have been made to try him on the charges.
Alain Gosse, a former major in the Ivoirian army, testified before French judges last August that Kieffer was killed by accident after being kidnapped by a special forces squad who simply wanted to scare him.
On Thursday, a French judge investigating the case ordered the release of one suspect after 2 1/2 years of detention. The suspect was accused of commanding the squad that kidnapped and presumably executed Kieffer.
The Kieffer family lawyer praised the decision, saying the suspect was the scapegoat for a plot conceived by top Ivoirian officials.
Advertisements also appeared in six national newspapers in Ivory Coast on Friday, accompanying the billboards in the highest-profile effort to date to discover the truth.
"The press lost one of its own," Mieu said. "We're going to make sure that this affair isn't laid to rest."


Updated : 2021-10-23 14:19 GMT+08:00