14 March 2018
Shadow of British undercover police officer hangs over French "anarchist cell" trial
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Although initially arrested on terror charges, they were later dropped and four of the group now face charges of conspiracy; two with falsifying and receiving stolen documents; and another two with refusing to submit samples for DNA testing.
See: French 'anarchist cell' faces trial over TGV train sabotage claim (The Local, link):
"Ten years after their arrests in a politically charged case that prompted accusations of police overreach, eight members of an alleged "anarchist cell" will go on trial in France on Tuesday over claims of sabotaging high-speed train lines.
The "Tarnac group", named after the village near their communal living compound in central France, has staunchly denied the charges during more than seven years of investigations.
(...) defence lawyers claimed "anomalies" in the inquiry, most notably testimony from a supposed witness who later said he had simply signed a document prepared by the police.
Critics also accused the government under then president Nicolas Sarkozy of whipping up fears of a return of "ultra-leftist terrorism," even though a judge eventually refused to try the Tarnac suspects on terror charges."
This article also notes that "media reports later claimed a British police spy, Mark Kennedy, had infilitrated the group." In fact this issue was raised by accused members of the group since Kennedy was outed as a spy in 2010.
According to Le Figaro, which reported on yesterday's proceedings, the role of Mark Kennedy is considered central by the defence. See: Revivez la première journée du procès du «groupe de Tarnac» (Le Figaro, link)
The judge reportedly stated that: "We never knew who the source of this information was... It may be that Mr Kennedy was in New York... It may be that he was also in Nancy... There is no evidence about the framework in which Mr Kennedy intervened, nor the information that he could provide."
The defence lawyer argued that it is up to the prosecution to show whether one or another piece of information did or did not come from Kennedy
The journalist reporting on the case notes that: "This is an important point as the defence must know in what condition the elements of the proceedings were produced."
The defence lawyer claimed that "everything is based" on a file that emanated from Kennedy, which the defence considers invalid.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, argued that the source of the initial information is irrelevant as the judicial proceedings are based on elements that were produced in France and which are "traceable".
The Tarnac affair and its relation to British undercover policing operations was reported on by Statewatch in a 2013 article, which noted that one of the people currently in court, Yildune Lévy, brought proceedings against the French Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (Direction central du renseignement intérieur, DCRI, akin to UKs MI5) to try to force the publication of a dossier on which the charges against her and the others on trial are based.
Lévys lawyers argued that the dossier submitted to the court by the DCRI did not contain any substantive evidence that could lead to the accusations against her: facts included in the dossier were not necessarily relevant to the charges; the interpretation of those facts was not necessarily correct; and the means by which those facts were obtained is questionable.
It was also argued that revealing the contents of the dossier would shed more light on the role of Mark Kennedy, who was present in Tarnac and allegedly supplied much of the information used by DCRI to bring charges against Lévy and others.
The British authorities - in particular the National Public Order Intelligence Unit for whom Kennedy worked - were also apparently recipients of the information obtained by Kennedy.
This included information gathered whilst in New York at the same time as Julien Coupat (Lévy's husband and the central figure in the allegations), much of which apparently also made its way to the FBI.
Lévys lawyers argued that access to all the elements of the dossier is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite for obtaining a fair trial.
See: Secrets and lies: undercover police operations raise more questions than answers (Statewatch Journal, vol 23 no 2, August 2013)
The trial is due to last until 30 March.
Kennedy's role in Tarnac was discussed extensively in an article published in 2012: Mark Kennedy: A mole in Tarnac (euro-police, link)
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