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Judge orders release of French photojournalist Jean-Paul Ney, prosecutor appeals decision

(RSF/IFEX) - French freelance photographer Jean-Paul Ney, who has been held in custody for 15 months in connection with an alleged "plot" to undermine the country's peace process, told Reporters Without Borders on 24 March 2009 that the judge handling the case ordered his release on 20 March.

Ney, who spoke by phone from Maca prison in the capital Abidjan to the worldwide press freedom organisation's secretary general, Jean-François Julliard, told him that the prosecutor's office was obstructing his release by appealing against it.

The French journalist was arrested near the studios of Radiotélévision ivoirienne (RTI) in Abidjan, on 27 December 2007 and held in connection with a foiled "plot", hatched by Ibrahim Coulibaly from his exile in Benin.

The plot was exposed the following day in Bouaké, in the centre of the country, by Forces Nouvelles (FN), the former rebel group that has joined a power-sharing government with President Laurent Gbagbo.

"Despite the grey areas in the 'Christmas in Abidjan' case that Jean-Paul Ney was covering when he was arrested, we believe that his imprisonment is unjustified and should be quickly ended. We are concerned about his health. Long months of imprisonment in the Maca could have serious consequences", Jean-François Julliard said.

Jean-Paul Ney described receiving a visit in his cell from the court clerk on 20 March. "He told me that the judge had ordered my release," he said. "But the prosecutor's office was blocking it by appealing. My case will therefore now go to the appeal court and could take months", he said, adding, "I have done nothing wrong and it's time I got out of here."

The French photographer said his last hearing before the examining judge, Gnakadé Joachim, went back to April 2008.

Updates the Ney case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89405

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