Journalists Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud will be publicly tried on 30 June in Phonesavanh (ten hours by road north from Vientiane), their Support Committee has learned. Falise's wife and Reynaud's girlfriend, as well as Roland Neveu, representing the Committee, are expected to be able to attend.
The French ambassador in Laos, Bernard Pottier, the lawyer for the two journalists, Thivat Vorachak, a Belgian diplomat and a US official, will also be present.
The Committee has no assurance that the trial will be impartial. The charges against the pair are not yet known and their right to be legally defended has not been established.
The Committee asks Belgian and French diplomats, the international media and human rights organisations to make every effort to attend the trial to see that defence rights are respected and to stress that Falise and Reynaud are journalists.
Journalists Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud will be publicly tried on Friday 27 June in Phonesavanh (more than 10 hours by road north from Vientiane), according to diplomatic sources. The charges against them are not yet known. The official enquiry into the case is expected to finish late the previous day.
The sources said prison sentences could not be ruled out. A lawyer named by the French embassy is expected to represent them.
The Committee set up to support them condemns the holding of the trial in such a remote place as Phonesavan and calls for international standards of justice to be respected at the trial.
It also asks Belgian and French diplomats, the international media and human rights organisations to make every effort to attend the trial to see that defence rights are respected and to stress that Falise and Reynaud are journalists.
Based on what it knows of the case, the Committee reiterates its belief that the strong accusations against them are groundless.
More than 2,000 people, including dozens of journalists and media outlets, have signed the petition for their release.
The Committee has set up an emergency fund to help their families. Donations can be sent by cheque to Reporters Without Borders, 5 rue Geoffroy-Marie, 75009 Paris, France, made out to "RSF" and mentioning the Falise-Reynaud Support Committee.
Website: www.free-falise-and-reynaud.com with online petition
Belgian freelance reporter Falise, a regular contributor to the French weekly magazine L'Express, and freelance French cameraman Reynaud were arrested in Xieng Khuang province (northeast of Vientiane) on 4 June 2003 along with the Rev. Naw Karl Mua, a US citizen of Hmong origin, and four Laotians. They were completing a report on the plight of the Hmong minority. French diplomats were able to visit them on 16 June and said they were in good health. Two days later, Falise's wife was able to see her husband for five minutes and said he had got thinner. Reynaud's girlfriend was allowed to visit the cameraman on 23 June.