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Charges dropped against journalists in Cofidis case

Charges have been dropped against five journalists from the French sports daily L’Equipe and the weekly Le Point, once charged with the illegal possession and concealment of confidential documents in connection with an investigation of the Cofidis team.

A court in Nanterre found no evidence to show the reporters had possession of the documents and ruled that any conviction would be based on “mere suspicion.”

The court, however, did not rule on a defense motion that the charge of “concealment” is inconsistent with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and represented government intrusion into the freedom of the press.

“It would have been difficult to convict journalists without establishing with certainty that they had actually procured and possessed the documents in question,” Basile Ader, an attorney representing the five said. “Despite that difficulty, the court’s decision is still a pleasant surprise.”

The five — three from Le Point and two from L’Equipe — were originally indicted in October 2006 for possessing and then hiding documents in connection with a 2004 investigation of a doping network connected with the Cofidis team.

Both publications had reproduced transcripts of police wiretaps and interviews with members of the team in April of 2004.

Police raided the offices of both publications in January 2005 and seized files and computers as part of the investigation.

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