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Europe court defends scoop on Monaco prince's love child

Europe's top rights court ruled on Thursday that French magazine Paris Match was wrongly convicted in 2005 for revealing Monaco's Prince Albert II had a love child with a stewardess.

STRASBOURG, France: Europe's top rights court ruled on Thursday that French magazine Paris Match was wrongly convicted in 2005 for revealing Monaco's Prince Albert II had a love child with a stewardess.

A court near Paris found in June 2005 that the prince's right to privacy had been violated by the 10-page spread, and sentenced the weekly to 50,000 euros in damages ($60,000 at the time) and also asked Paris Match and its owner Hachette Filipacchi to pay 4,000 euros in court costs.

Prince Albert admitted shortly afterwards that he was the father of a baby boy born out of wedlock to French-Togolese flight attendant Nicole Coste.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the judgement "breached the magazine's freedom of expression".

"The court found that the public had a legitimate interest in knowing of the child's existence and being able to conduct a debate on the possible implications for political life in the principality of Monaco," it said.

"The court concluded that, in disclosing the information, (Coste) had sought to secure public recognition of her son's status and of the fact that the prince was his father, which were crucial factors in ending the secrecy surrounding him."

In the Paris Match interview published in May 2005, Coste, then 33, described her years-long affair with Albert, whom she said she met on a Paris-Nice flight in July 1997.

The article was illustrated with several pictures of Albert holding a child in his arms.

Olivier Royant, managing editor of Paris Match, welcomed the ruling, which he said was "extremely important".

"French judges will now have to take this decision into account," he said.

The prince, the son of the late Prince Rainier and Grace of Monaco, has since married South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock who is now expecting a baby.

He has another love child, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi who was born in 1992 and whose paternity he confirmed in 2006. Her mother, Tamara Rotolo, is American and had a brief affair with Albert when she was holidaying in the French Riviera.

Neither of them have any rights to the Monaco crown as they were born out of wedlock.

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