Judge Jean-Marc Herbaut received the families in the anti-terrorism department of the central law courts in Paris. Representatives of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Radio France Internationale (RFI), the French public broadcaster for whom Dupont and Verlon worked, also attended.
The meeting, which lasted several hours, was the first hearing in the case since Herbaut took over the French judicial investigation in October 2015.
Dupont and Verlon were kidnapped in Kidal, in northern Mali, shortly after interviewing Amberri Ag Rhissa, one of the chiefs of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) on 2 November 2013.
Their abductors shot them dead in the desert some 10 to 20 minutes later when their vehicle broke down. Abdelkrim al Tuareg, the head of the jihadi group Katiba Al Ansar, subsequently claimed their double-murder. According to the French army, he was later killed in combat.
“We welcome Judge Herbaut’s initiative and his declared desire to press on with the investigation,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This is a complex case in which several aspects have resisted clarification but we hope that all leads will be pursued so that the investigation can advance as quickly as possible and the suspects who are still alive can be quickly identified and located.”
The judge said newly emerged evidence has confirmed the theory that Dupont and Verlon were killed when a kidnapping for ransom went wrong. He also said the investigation was complicated by the fact that Mali’s authorities do not control the north of the country and that, although willing to help the investigation, Mali’s justice department badly lacks resources.
New requests for the declassification of evidence have meanwhile also been submitted.
Dupont’s two computers, a professional one and a personal one, were handed over to the judge for analysis by experts because, according to an investigation by the French TV current affairs programme Envoyé Spécial, someone hacked into Dupont’s computer remotely on the day she was murdered.
Dupont’s mother said the families have had to wait too long for the truth. “Four years later, we still have no answer. Every evening, my head spins with the craziest scenarios. We need to understand what happened and why they were killed.”
Mali is ranked 116th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
More information here about the murders of the two RFI journalists and about continuing investigation.