French journalists 'blackmailed king of Morocco'

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King Mohammed VI of Morocco waves to crowds during Throne Day Celebrations at the Royal Palace on July 31, 2006 in Rabat, MoroccoImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Moroccan law prohibits criticism of King Mohammed VI

Two French reporters have been arrested and accused of attempting to blackmail the king of Morocco, lawyers say.

Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet, who are writing a book on King Mohammed VI, were reportedly detained after being handed cash by a Moroccan official.

A lawyer for the Moroccan government told France's RTL radio that Mr Laurent contacted the royal palace in July to demand €3 million (£2.2m; $3.4m).

Mr Laurent allegedly warned the palace about damaging revelations in the book.

"A sum of money was handed over and accepted" at a meeting between the journalist and a Moroccan government official, according to France's AFP news agency.

The publishing company Editions du Seuil confirmed that the pair, who have already written one book about the Moroccan monarch, were working on a second volume due for publication early next year.

Moroccan website, which has close ties to the palace, reported details of how Moroccan representatives held two meetings with Mr Laurent that were monitored by police.

The journalists were then arrested after leaving a restaurant with an alleged down payment, the report said.

Mr Laurent and Ms Graciet's 2012 book, Predator King, was critical of Mohammed VI, detailing how his fortune had ballooned since taking the throne in 1999.

Moroccan law prohibits criticising the king, with a possible penalty of up to five years in prison for anyone who does so.