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"It is for me, in the name of the Republic, to ask your pardon"

Emmanuel Macron, concerning the murder of Maurice Audin in 1957

Translated Saturday 29 September 2018, by Henry Crapo

The President of the Republic visited Josette Audin’s home yesterday (Thursday, September 13) to give her the statement in which he acknowledges the state crime committed against her husband sixty-one years ago. A historic gesture of great political significance.

Josette Audin’s beautiful smile. In his apartment, where Maurice Audin is everywhere, an eternal 25-year-old young man immortalized by pictures placed on the shelves of the living room, the happiness of seeing sixty-one years of struggle end radiates from his face. The emotion is immense for the family and the ten or so relatives present, who are waiting for the arrival of the President of the Republic. Among them, Cédric Villani, Claire Hocquet, the family lawyer, historians Sylvie Thénault and Raphaëlle Branche, Pierre Mansat, president of the Maurice-Audin association, but also the communist deputy Sébastien Jumel.

Photo: l’Humanité

At this point, everyone has a thought for those who tirelessly campaigned for this admission, and who are no longer here to attend this historic moment: the family’s lawyer, Mr Roland Rappaport, but also Henri Alleg, who was likewise a victim of torture because of his anti-colonialist commitment. In this corridor of Josette Audin’s modest apartment, a page of history is being written. Emmanuel Macron will stay for more than an hour to share with the family the meaning of this recognition: "It was an injustice to be repaired. You have never retreated from your engagement to have the truth recognized, the only thing I do is recognize it," he says right away.These are words that Josette Audin has been waiting for for 61 years. "I thank you sincerely," she said. "It’s my job to apologize, so you don’t tell me anything. We are restoring a little of what had to be done," says Emmanuel Macron. "Yes, well, thank you anyway! ", Josette Audin replied with a mischievous look. The president: "I see that the indiscipline continues"... In the room, beside them, Cedric Villani addresses Emmanuel Macron: "I swear to you, when I saw the front page of Huma this morning, I cried. »

And to pay tribute to his mathematician colleagues, such as Laurent Schwartz, who were among the first to ask the State: "What happened to Maurice Audin?" "It makes sense for the communist family to be with you today," says Sébastien Jumel. I welcome this statement, which is all the more symbolic as it comes on the eve of the Feast of Humanité, a newspaper that has historically played a decisive role. This recognition is likely to appease this memory among the younger and older generations. " The two deputies had helped to revive the case by organizing a joint press conference at the National Assembly last January. "We had debates yesterday and we will have debates tomorrow on many other subjects," warns the Communist deputy, "but thank you for the respect you have shown by your presence here. On behalf of all communists, I am particularly sensitive to this."

The army, after having organized an omerta around the Audin affair for more than half a century, is also represented. A strong symbol. the presence of Admiral Bernard Rogel, Chief of Staff of the Elysée, who is moved, and slipped in a few words: "I would sincerely like this part of history to be passed on to the younger generations of soldiers..." The eyes meet. "Let’s hope so," reacts Pierre Audin, their son, who always reminds us that this recognition must make it possible to fight against the use of torture, wherever it is still practised.

Because, in addition to Maurice Audin, this recognition is also one for all Algerian victims. "This assassination was made possible by a legally established system: the ’arrest and detention’ system, set up under the special powers legally entrusted to the armed forces at that time," states the declaration of the Head of State. This is indeed the first time that the Republic has acknowledged that the abuses and torture were committed with the approval of the authorities and political actors of the time, including François Mitterrand, who played a decisive role as Guy Mollet’s Minister of Justice, until 12 June 1957. "This is very beautiful news, of great historical significance," said Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the PCF, yesterday. The concealment of state responsibility, the lie about torture were a stain on the Republic’s pediment. This statement will open a new page. It is a victory for all those who have fought this battle tirelessly for more than sixty years, proof that determination was just and necessary. "This is a significant step forward," says historian Benjamin Stora, who was present yesterday at Josette Audin’s home. This was the claim from the beginning, particularly of Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who had always insisted that this murder be properly interpreted as representative of the colonial system. The calls I have received today from colleagues around the world demonstrate the significance of this political act. » In 2014, François Hollande took a first step by publicly acknowledging the deceitful nature of the theory of escape, defended by the army to cover up its crime. But he had not had the courage to tackle state responsibility. A missed rendezvous that today allows Emmanuel Macron to make this historic political gesture. Like the one Jacques Chirac made in 1995 concerning the raid on the Vél’d’Hiv.

Truth stumbles over silence

But Josette Audin’s fight will not end there. "I will be really happy when I know the names of my husband’s murderers and we can offer him a burial," she said yesterday. To date, the precise circumstances of his disappearance are still unknown. Died under torture, strangled by Lieutenant Charbonnier or executed by a commando of the Aussaresses team... several hypotheses continue to coexist for lack of written evidence. The truth still stumbles on the silence or lies of key witnesses, who have always obstructed the investigation. But the Audin family hopes that "the opening of the archives and the President’s call for testimony will be heard by all surviving witnesses and all those who hold private archives likely to shed light on the exact circumstances of Maurice Audin’s death and all those who have suffered the same fate". So far, the Algerian authorities have never responded to the Audin family’s requests to carry out searches in places designated by witnesses as being those where the body may be found. Emmanuel Macron also pledged yesterday to encourage the Algerian authorities in this direction. So will this statement help to put an end to the Audin affair? Will the archives confirm the names of his murderers? No one knows that. But the action taken opens a new page. And we can count on the determination of the Audin family to finish writing it.

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