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Suspect in Argentina tourist murders freed on bail

AFP · 2 Aug 2011, 11:40

Published: 02 Aug 2011 11:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Aug 2011 11:40 GMT+02:00

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Authorities have bailed a man arrested on Monday in connection with the murder of two French women found shot dead in a tourist area in northern Argentina, a court official has said.

"The suspect denied all charges before Judge Martin Perez, who ordered his release on bail for lack of merit," said court spokesman Marcelo Baez.

The French women's bodies were found Friday by hikers on a trail in an area overlooking Salta, the capital of a northern province of the same name.

Police had arrested 43-year-old Francisco Tejada – who rents horses to tourists in the area where the bodies were found – overnight Monday.

Tejada's wife, Doming Gonzalez, was quoted on the Internet site of El Tribuno de Salta as saying her husband was innocent and was "grabbed because he is poor."

She said Tejada had not been away from home or work for long periods of time in recent days.

French consul general Patrick Flot traveled to Salta on Monday to confer with local authorities, a French embassy source said.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said his country was "appalled by the terrible crime," in a letter to his French counterpart Alain Juppé, adding that authorities were "working hard on the case."

The victims – Houria Moumni, 24, and Cassandre Bouvier, 29 – were "brilliant students" of Latin American studies at the Sorbonne, the university's president Marie-Christine Lemardeley said.

They were believed to have been killed sometime last week after going on a hike in the rocky trails that offer panoramic views of Salta, some 1,600 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.

Story continues below…

The two women entered the San Lorenzo Gorge on July 15, according to a park registry, but were believed to have been killed sometime between Tuesday and Thursday, and may have been held captive for several days.

One of the woman was shot in the head and apparently sexually abused. The other was shot in the back.

On Sunday, the French foreign ministry expressed "complete confidence in the Argentine authorities... to shed light on these murders so the perpetrators can be identified and tried."

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