French authorities have arrested three al-Jazeera journalists for the alleged illegal flying of a drone in Paris after being spotted by police in the Bois de Boulogne area.
A spokesman for prosecutors said there was “no relationship for the moment” between the arrests and mysterious drone flights over the city at night.
Drones flew over the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks five times for a second night running on February 24.
Flying drones over Paris without a license is banned by law.
The offense carries a maximum one-year prison sentence and a €75,000 ($85,000) fine.
A judicial source told AFP news agency of the three people arrested: “The first was piloting the drone, the second was filming and the third was watching.”
The names and nationalities of the journalists have not been released. Al-Jazeera is a Qatar-based satellite TV channel.
It is against the law for any aircraft to fly lower than 19,700ft over central Paris. Flying any aircraft under that ceiling – including drones, police helicopters and air ambulances – requires permission from city authorities.
Flying a drone at night is banned completely.
France’s Interior Minister admitted today that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was stopped by police trying to “clean-up” a Paris park notorious for transvestite prostitutes five years ago.
Claude Gueant said DSK was stopped by officers patrolling the Bois de Boulogne, one of the most infamous red light districts in the city.
The incident was recorded in a police log, before being publicly announced by Claude Gueant in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
Asked about the scandal, Claude Gueant said: “Yes, I’ve heard of this story in which Mr Strauss-Kahn was stopped in the Bois de Boulogne by the officers in charge of the area’s surveillance during a routine check.
“But there was no action taken over this matter. He wasn’t framed by the police. He was not being followed. After all, it’s not the police’s fault if he was there that night.”
Claude Gueant said DSK was stopped by officers patrolling the Bois de Boulogne, one of the most infamous red light districts in the city
The revelation comes as DSK desperately tries to prove a conspiracy theory aimed at stopping him becoming President of France.
It has been claimed that government agents were behind a “plot” which saw DSK accused of trying to rape a chamber maid in a New York hotel earlier this year.
Although eventually cleared of attacking Nafissatou Diallo, DSK’s bid to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy as Socialist candidate for president is in tatters.
Now Claude Gueant has made clear that Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is sick and tired of the “conspiracy theories” and wants DSK to shut up about his stolen smart phone, which he thinks may have been hacked by the authorities.
“I am shocked when I read that entire conspiracy theories are being concocted just because Mr Strauss-Kahn lost his phone,” said Claude Gueant.
“Mr Strauss-Kahn was not being spied on by the French police – it is scandalous to suggest that today.”
In turn, DSK admitted that he had been stopped by the police in the wood, but said he was with his wife, the former TV presenter Anne Sinclair, and only because they lived nearby.
Richard Malka, a lawyer for DSK, said: “It was nothing more than a routine check”, and that during 15 years living near the wood, the Strauss-Kahns had been “stopped several times”.
Earlier this week, DSK claimed that his “uninhibited” sex life cost him his chance to become president.
DSK, 62,denied paying to sleep with prostitutes but admitted attending “sex parties”.
He was also investigated but then cleared over the attempted rape of writer Tristane Banon, now 32, in 2001.
DSK is now at the centre of judicial enquiry into a prostitution ring operating out of the Carlton Hotel in Lille, northern France.
DSK said: “I have a horror of prostitution and pimping. Can you imagine the damage caused to my wife, our children?”
He is now set to meet prosecutors so he could clear his name of “dangerous and malicious insinuations” connected to the Carlton Affair – a move welcomed by Claude Gueant.
It came as new links emerged between Nicolas Sarkozy and the Accor Group, which owns the Sofitel hotel where DSK was accused of attempted rape.
One of Accor’s senior directors has had a close bond with the French president since Nicolas Sarkozy – then the mayor of a prosperous Paris suburb – helped rescue his three-year-old daughter from a school siege.
Sebastien Bazin’s daughter, Fleur, was one of 21 children taken hostage at their nursery in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1993.
The friendship between Sebastien Bazin, 50, and the president is so strong that Bazin often jokes he has known Nicolas Sarkozy “since kindergarten”. They are also united by a shared passion for the Paris Saint-Germain football club.