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The story of the Tarnac 9

February 3rd, 2009 · post by anon · Make a comment

On the 11th November last year, French police arrested 10 people in raids, with 150 cops descending with helicopters and dogs on the tiny village of Tarnac. 9 were eventually charged with ‘criminal association for the purposes of terrorist activity’. The charges were in connection with the sabotage of train lines which had caused delays on the French railways on a bank holiday weekend, by dropping horseshoe-shaped iron bars over the power lines of four different lines. A protest against the rail transport of nuclear waste; however the main charges seem to be for general conspiracy. Most have been released on bail by now, however Julien Coupat, is still in custody and is being charged with ‘directing a terrorist group’.

The evidence focuses strongly on the alleged authorship of a pamphlet The Coming Insurrection, and their association with what the French government has termed the ‘anarcho-autonomous movement’ with a ‘dangerous logic’. They were monitoring the group of people for more than a year.

The charges have reignited debate over a 1996 anti-terrorism law long criticised in France and elsewhere as overly broad. A debate is unfolding in the mainstream press, including a couple of articles appearing in the Guardian/ Observer proclaiming the rise of a more militant ultra left movement and the terrorist threats from it. Others are pointing out that the case rests on spurious evidence and mostly on political opinion and lifestyle choices – and what it means for our society if these choices can be tarnished with accusations of terrorism? The head of the counterterrorist coordination unit explained that they made the arrests due to ideas and behavior observed, not actions, ‘We decided to neutralise them preventively, before they commit a crime.’

A letter from Benjamin, one of the accused currently on bail

“Some scenarios already seen in several countries during the past few years (USA, UK, Germany, Italy…) are now being heavily pushed in France, ushering in a regime where the exception is the rule. Most of the times these procedures have nothing to do with “terrorism”, whichever definition you choose to give to this word. They follow the age-old logic of “repressing one to frighten a hundred”. In the past, “a few” would have been hung at the entrance of the city to give an example.

In our case, it quickly became clear that the “case of the SNCF sabotages” was only a useful excuse to unveil an operation of communication and of “preventive neutralisation” that was planned a long time ago (since Michèle-Alliot Marie became the minister of interior affairs).

The speed of “Operation Taïga” and the almost total absence of material evidence in the file presented against us, even after searches and extended interrogations, easily reveals the lies of the police. Yet there have been important efforts to try to spice up this dull story. A “small isolated group devoted to clandestinity”, an “uncontested leader”, his “right-hand”, his “lieutenants”, some “friendly relationships” created in the village out of “pure strategy”.

Yet none of it, thankfully, was enough to prevent people from believing “more in what they live than in what they see on TV. (…) This accusation (of conspiracy) is based on a body of disparate information and suppositions, gathered by the intelligence services, but which only a highly imaginative police prose was able to articulated in such a unilateral fashion. The friendly relations, each one political in it’s own way, become without any doubt organizational affiliations or even hierarchies.

A series of encounters, the participation of a few in a demonstration, the presence of some during the social movements of the past few years, become the proof of the  ’political’ (in the most classical and literal meaning of the term) identity of a “group” that can be isolated as a (cancerous?) “cell”. This is a complete untruth, and involves a certain number of serious misinterpretations of what we have carried in diverse ways for the past years.”

There had been other arrests over the last year connected to the threat perceived from the ‘anarcho-autonomous movement’ and the situation is escalating.

Support groups are forming all over France and further afield, with the strongest support coming from the local village, where the arrested were known for living on a communal farm and running a local shop and cafe. Some supporters have themselves been picked up by the police on spurious charges. On Saturday the 31st January, about 3000 people took to the streets of Paris in solidarity, marching towards the prison Julien is held in and letting off fireworks.

See the following websites for more information and to support the call to drop the charges:

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