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French documentary crew's departure from country delayed for six days by suspicious legal wrangle; producer obliged to remain

(RSF/IFEX) - On 20 February 2008, French photographer and documentary film-maker Yann Arthus-Bertrand and ten members of his film crew were detained at the Puerto Iguazú airport, northeastern Argentina. The team was in the country to film a feature for the "Vu du Ciel" television programme, broadcast on France 2. They were brought before a judge who advised them that a complaint had been filed against them for fraud and prevented them from leaving the country.

RSF was able to ascertain that on the evening of 19 February, a local travel agency demanded that the crew settle their bill in cash. The crew did not have the necessary money but arranged for a bank transfer from Paris.

It is curious that the travel agent who reportedly filed the complaint never appeared in court. Arthus-Bertrand and his team believe that they were the victims of a frame-up. One of the issues they had been covering was the construction of a controversial dam opposed by local residents in Iguazú. At one point during their trip, the crew noticed that they were being followed by the police. The authorities forbade the flight of the helicopter that had been contracted for the filming of this part of the feature.

After being confined in their hotel rooms for six days, the film crew was finally released on bail on 26 February. Once the prohibition on their departure from the country was lifted, except for producer Bernard Chaudot, they returned to Paris.

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