The French SNCF Arrests (Update 3)

French Anarchist Arrest Wave:
Monday Update (2008-11-17)

Friday the first legal actions were taken against those arrested. The number detained has dropped to nine, with one person released Friday — alleged to have been the mother of one of the defendants who happened to be in an apartment being raided at the time.

Per the French legal system (see ) a Paris based special terrorism court investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction antiterroriste ), Thierry Fragnoli, examined the cases on five detainees on Friday, two more over the weekend, and will formally examine two more on Tuesday (18th). The investigating magistrate works like a Grand Jury, determining if there is evidence and formally charging the defendants, then passing their cases to a court (usually with multiple judges, a prosecutor and defense).

Julien Coupat, whom the press have dubbed the head of the “cellule invisible” (a play on the Invisible Committee which penned the book he is accused of writing) was formally charged with “Directing a terrorist organisation” (” dirigé une structure à vocation terroriste”). Coupat and four others we charged with “concerted Destruction while taking part in a terrorist enterprise” (“destructions en réunion en relation avec une entreprise terroriste”) and “Refusing to submit to a DNA test” (“refus de se soumettre à un prélèvement ADN”).

The remaining four are (or will be) charged with “Taking part in a criminal association as part of a terrorist enterprise” (“association de malfaiteurs en relation avec une entreprise terroriste”). On Friday it was reported that two of the nine would be released without charge, but it now appears that at least five will be imprisoned awaiting trial, with four possibly being placed under house arrest awaiting trial. The greatest charge, aimed at Coupat, could result in a 20 year sentence.


Minister of Interior Michèle Alliot-Marie (or MAM) has been on a crusade for at least a year against what she’s dubbed the “l’ultra-gauche” Movement (or the “Anarcho-Autonomous Movement”) has continued to trumpet the arrests as a blow against terrorism, and claims that there are “Around 300” members of such groups in France. She has studiously refused to link them to what the French call “l’extrême-gauche” (Communists, Trotskyists, Revolutionary Syndicalists, etc), who are helping Rail unions organise work stoppages against a possible plan to privatise the railways. It seems a transparent attempt to criminalise elements of the left and create a bogeyman to split left groups.


A after the initial hysterical press coverage (Le Figaro was a primo example of headless chicken red-baiting hyperbole), some press is starting to ask tougher questions. DANIEL SCHNEIDERMANN at Liberation calls these arrest “a How to on building strawmen” ( ), while la Nouvelle Republique asks the obvious question, if there were 27,000 incedents of little noted property destruction on SNCF rail lines last year, how is this suddenly “terrorism”? ( )

L’Express collects an number of such editorials under the title “The Invisible Cell: ‘Anti-Terrorist Paranoia'” ( )

While a defense committee of those arrested is being organised, there are two good places to keep abreast of the case: A Caen based Anarcho-syndicalist message board is reprinting many of the press reports, and the blog at has promised details of the defense committee as the appear.

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