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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tarnac refuse le scénario terroriste

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand

Tarnac Rejects the Terrorist Scenario

Translated Friday 28 November 2008, by Henry Crapo

SNCF [1] Two weeks after the arrest, in the Corrèze, of nine young people suspected of having sabotaged overhead electric power lines for high-speed trains (TGV [2]), parents and local supporters criticize the manipulation of this event for political ends.

Tarmac (Corrèze) [3],
by special correspondent.

It is a letter of two pages, both sides full of text, in meticulous calligraphy.
Jean Plazanet, former mayor of Tarmac and co-initiator of the commitee of support for the nine young people accused of having participated in sabotage the night of 7-8 November along a line of the TGV, takes the letter from an envelope mailed from the Allier [4]. The sender had taken care to write, on a corner of the envelope, "No, to the privatization of the Postal service." [5] As the only address, you see the name of the ex-first-magistrate and the name of his town. The writer, a lady whose father, she says, was born in the region, does not know the young people who were jailed, and prejudges neither their guilt nor innocence. But she says she is shocked by the manner of their arrest, and the portrait of perfect guilt that has been painted of them, leaving the bad taste of a case decided in advance. "Even if they have no proof, they will know how to find what is necessary in order to condemn them", she worries, in closing, and offers the solidarity of herself and of her husband.

Launched several days after the arrest of nine young people, arrested in military fashion at their home, the Support Committee for Those Arrested in 11 November [6] hears an echo from places distant from their village. "I received six or seven letters like this," continues Jean Plazanet, smoothing out the page on the table with the flat of his hand, seated with his back to the fireplace, the opening of which resembles a giant mouth ready to swallow him. He keeps the little pack of envelopes next to the telephone, which he has finally stopped answering, so great has been the harassment by the press. Some letters contain a few euros, sent without a word. Others have arrived directly to the support committee, which, moreover, is not unique. Little groups organize here and there, from Limoges to Paris, where one speaks of organizing many well-known "intellectuals". An illustrator has already offered his services. The message is each time the same, and rhymes with what has become the slogan for action in the village, "Respect the Presumption of Innocence."

Guilty of Terrorism

"It was violated in a shameful fashion," continues Madame
Irène Terrel, lawyer representing Julien Coupat, whom the justice system considers to be the leader of the group. "From the beginning, those charged were presented not just as guilty, but also as guilty of terrorism, whereas they should have, at worst, been pursued for property damage while participating in an organized group."

The words of the lawyer resemble those often repeated by many inhabitants of Tarnac. They tell how a combined force of police, press and judiciary out of all proportion, had assembled in their town. 150 police, stationed as of 6h30 on the morning of 11 November, blocked all entry and departure from the village. The machine guns, helicopters, the attack dogs: "All that, to pick up a bunch of sleepy kids", adds Gérard, a businessman, his elbow on the counter of the grocery store, which had been searched that infamous day.

The event has reawakened some sombre ghosts, and the elders of the village don’t hesitate to evoke the times when the Gestapo would descend on their town. Similarity is no proof [7] But everyone here has the same words on his lips: "They capture a guy from the ETA [8] practically with their hands in their pockets, but here they deploy an army, when four gendarmes would have sufficed ..."

The presence of the audio-visual press, who arrived very quickly at the scene, is also underscored. When one reviews the images shown, those of the young people under guard of special forces, their faces hidden by their jackets, and the vocabulary used, commando, clandestine, guru, and finally, terrorism, the commentaries left no room for the presumption of innocence. "The government district attorney [9] himself spoke of a "camp for indoctrination," adds Michel Gillabert, president of the Tarnac committee. "Already at 10am, Michèle Alliot-Marie [10] gave a press conference and spoke of "an autonomous anarchist ultra-left movement", he continues, denouncing, following the example of the lawyers, a manipulation by the press and politicians. Because there had been, most importantly, a portrait of them drawn up by the Minister of the Interior during the very first hours of the interrogation. A portrait of marginal youth, hiding out in semi-clandestinity, and rejecting the society in its entirety.

The inhabitants of Tarnac have not stopped since then, telling the opposite story of young people, well integrated, even useful, in the village. We now know that it was these youngsters who had taken up the management of the grocery store, which had been in danger of being closed. Other speak of a helping hand they had offered here and there.

An open letter from the parents

On Sunday, the parents of those arrested came to Tarnac to meet with the support committee. In the community hall, full to bursting that evening, they insisted on reading an open letter, which they addressed to the population as a whole. "The most impressive action of the police was not having pointed a pistol at a baby of nine months, fully asleep, but rather that they managed to make it believable that the desire to change such a perfect world would arise only in the minds of those who have gone off the tracks." And added, as a post-script, "Thank you to the citizens of Tarnac, who prefer to believe what they live, rather than what they see on the television."

(Boxed paragraph on the same page of l’Humanité)

MAM Obsessed by the Ultras

After the arrest of the members of the "invisible cell", the minister of the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie ("MAM"), had estimated that the ultra-left in France included about 300 persons. "This doesn’t mean that all 300 persons would be ready to take violent action, but, within this group, there could take place a radicalization that could lead to violence", added this official who had made this movement one of her objectives ever since arriving at the Ministry, Place Beauveau.

According to the previous day’s issue of the newspaper Libération, the minister had also "asked the DST [11] to work on this new phenomenon." In order to increase the purview of the DCRI [12] (Formerly named the DST), the decree of 27 June 2008 extends, in particular, the permitted actions of this service, which worked initially on interior security and islamic terrorism, to the surveillance of groups and individuals of a "radical character" susceptible of endangering the national security.

At the same time, in the summer of 2007, the criminologist Alain Bauer had alerted the boss of the national directory of the national police, Frédéric Péchenard, after having read "The Coming Insurrection" [13], the red-hot book of which Julien Coupat is said to be one of the authors. A text today taken literally by the Minister of the Interior and which justifies, in part, according to the justice system, the charges of "terrorism" against the "Tarnac Nine".

The first articles in l’Humanité concerning the sabotage of the SNCF catenaries were SNCF, a High-Speed Inquiry and A Small Movement. These articles are available at present in French, only.

[1The French railway system

[2"TGV" stands for "très grande vitesse", very high speed.

[3A rather isolated community situated roughly between Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand

[4A French department some 165 km to the northeast.

[5This is part of a current campaign to head off a government effort to open "La Poste" to partial private control by purchase on the stock market.

[6In French "le Comité de soutien aux inculpés du 11 novembre "

[718th century proverb: "Comparaison n’est pas raison", a bit of a word play on the double occurrence of raison = reason.

[8Basque separatist movement

[9In French: "Le procureur de la République"

[10French minister of the Interior

[11French domestic intelligence agency, Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire or Directorate of Territorial Surveillance.

[12"Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur", or Central Headquarters for Domestic Intelligence", sometimes referred to as a "French FBI", recently created, replacing the renowned "RG" (Renseignement général) and "DST".

[13L’insurrection qui vient, by "Comité invisible " (the "Invisible Committee"), 2007.

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