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France’s unfairly heavy monitoring of anti-nuclear activists, treating them as violent criminals

Justice has massively monitored Bure’s anti-nuclear activists Reporterre,  April 27, 2020 / Marie Barbier (Reporterre) and Jade Lindgaard. Dozens of people tapped, a thousand retranscribed discussions, more than 85,000 conversations and intercepted messages, more than 16 years of cumulative telephone surveillance time: the judicial information opened in July 2017 is a disproportionate machine of intelligence on the movement antinuclear from this village of the Meuse, according to the documents consulted by Reporterre and Mediapart.

Faces caught in a web of arrows and diagrams. Under each photo: date and place of birth, nickname, organization. The individuals are grouped into “clans”, linked to places and ratings of the investigation file. Some faces are magnified, others reduced to the size of a pinhead. Some people are entitled to a photo, others appear in the form of a pictogram – blue for men, fuchsia pink for women.

This diagram [on original] was produced by the Anacrim criminal analysis cell of the national gendarmerie. Its software, Analyst’s notebook, makes it possible to visualize the links between people via their telephone numbers, places, events. This technique is usually used to solve particularly serious crimes: it recently emerged from the Gregory of legal darkness case, and is currently used in the investigation of the multi-repeat killer Nordahl Lelandais.

Examining magistrate Kévin le Fur used it to dissect the organization of the opposition movement at Cigeo, the radioactive waste landfill center planned next to the village of Bure, in the Meuse. Scheduled to come into operation in 2035, it is one of the largest industrial facilities in project today in France, and a very sensitive site for the nuclear industry.

The Anacrim diagram appears in the file of the judicial information for association of criminals, where ten antinuclear militants are under investigation for various reasons in connection with degradations committed in a hotel and the organization of an undeclared demonstration in August 2017. Subject to strict judicial control, those under investigation are prohibited from seeing each other, talking to each other and even being in the same room.

In the Bure case, Anacrim produced a total of fourteen diagrams on “the role and involvement” of the accused and the interactions between collectives and associations. This method leaves its mark on education. Seven people, among the ten indicted, are for criminal association, but 118 individuals are listed in the organization chart of the gendarmes placed in the investigation file.

Dozens of people tapped, more than a thousand transcribed discussions, tens of thousands of conversations and intercepted messages, more than fifteen years of cumulative telephone interception time: the judicial information opened in July 2017 looks like a real intelligence machine on the anti-nuclear movement of Bure, according to the investigation file consulted by Reporterre and Mediapart, and of which Liberation had unveiled part of the content in November 2018. An extraordinary investigation, extremely intrusive and focused on the surveillance of political activists whom the justice system seems to consider as enemies of democracy.

What facts triggered the authorization of such a massive data collection? On the morning of June 21, 2017, around thirty people approach the laboratory of the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra), responsible for creating the landfill center for radioactive waste, and set up a barrage of tires and flaming boards nearby, between the villages of Bure and Saudron.   Then “five to seven individuals”, according to the investigators, faces hidden, go to Le Bindeuil. This hotel, located in the countryside, opposite the laboratory, is almost exclusively occupied by gendarmes and professionals linked to the landfill project. It is for this reason identified by activists as a milestone in the nuclearization of this territory.  At Le Bindeuil, the small group breaks windows of the establishment, knocks over chairs on the terrace, and enters the building, while customers and staff are sleeping there. Broken glasses and bottles of alcohol. Oil is sprayed near the elevator and the counter, causing two outbreaks of fire.The small group comes out after five minutes. The chef from Le Bindeuil rushes out and puts out the flames. No one is hurt. Of the twelve customers present at the hotel that evening, only three filed a complaint (two of which did not constitute a civil party), despite numerous reminders from investigators.

Molotov cocktails and stones fly. Gendarmes were injured and a protester mutilated by a grenade on the foot. Those charged are for different reasons from each other: participation in a gathering after summons, participation in a criminal association for the preparation of an offense punishable by five or ten years’ imprisonment, detention (or complicity) in an organized gang of incendiary product, damage to the property of others by dangerous means, concealment of property from an aggravated theft, voluntary violence in meetings.

From the first days of the investigation, the gendarmes were worried about “criminal designs” unrelated to the “legitimate challenge in a democratic state” of the militants implicated. “These actions can no longer be considered as a legitimate social and societal protest” or “as a form of democratic opposition”, they write in a report, July 27, 2017. According to them, “some of the opponents deliberately choose a violent path. They attack the property associated with the contested projects, but sometimes also the people working for the development of these industrial installations and at the same time against the police. ” In the eyes of the investigators, “opponents criminalize themselves”.

Part of the seals is sent to the Anti-Terrorism Office, a unit of the gendarmerie responsible for the prevention and suppression of acts of terrorism.   To take the measure of the surveillance of the militants of Bure and their entourage, Reporterre and Mediapart evaluated the means deployed by the gendarmerie and the justice in their mission. Almost 765 telephone numbers have been the subject of identity verification requests from telephone operators. At least 200 other requests were made to find out the call histories, their places of emission, the bank details of the holders subscription, PUK codes to unlock a phone when you don’t know your PIN.

A total of 29 people and places were tapped. Two activists were targeted by these interceptions for 330 days, almost a year. For several others indicted, this lasts almost eight months. The number of the “Legal team”, the legal aid collective for activists, was monitored for four months. The telephone used by the activists taking turns on one of the barricades in Lejuc wood, then partly occupied to prevent the works  preparatory to Cigeo, has been listened to for almost nine months. Several people, who were ultimately not prosecuted, had their conversations intercepted for at least four months and one of them was on several devices. For the association Bure Zone Libre, domiciled at the Maison de la Résistance, the place of collective life and historic meetings of anti-Cigeo, the tapping lasted at least a year. At the request of the investigating judge, letters rogatory bsuccessive techniques to allow always more listening time.

According to Me Raphaël Kempf, one of the lawyers for the indictments: Listening for so long is proof that we are not in a classic criminal judicial procedure intended to collect evidence of the commission of crimes, but that we are using the means of law and criminal procedure  for the purpose of intelligence, which is political in nature. ”

If we add up all these sequences, we get a cumulative time spent listening to activists equivalent to more than sixteen years! According to the minutes, most of these people were listened to permanently by a team of gendarmes taking turns behind their screens. In total, more than 85,000 conversations and messages were intercepted, according to our estimates. And no less than 337 conversations were transcribed on trial-  verbal, to which are added some 800 messages reproduced by the Technical Assistance Center (CTA). Are these means proportionate to the crimes being prosecuted? Joined by Reporterre and Mediapart, Olivier Glady, public prosecutor of Bar-le-Duc answers: “I cannot answer that. This is a dossier that makes fifteen volumes. You have files of other kinds (traffic in vehicles or narcotics) which are roughly equivalent, I am not sure that the proportionality of the investigations is simply to relate to a number as you give it to me. ”

During these innumerable hours spent listening to the militants, the gendarmes tracked the indications, sometimes tiny, of each other’s responsibilities in organizing the protest. These are two cultures which, behind closed doors of a judicial investigation, seem to confront each other from a distance. On the one hand, the gendarmes. On the other, anti-nuclear, libertarian culture, who refuse hierarchy and formal assignments to roles. Inevitably, the vision of gendarmes stumbles on the spontaneous and horizontal practices of regulars at the Maison de la Résistance. This old farm in Bure was bought in 2004 by anti-nuclear activists to create a place of struggle. It has become a place of collective life where people come to sleep during a gathering, get together, work, cook, party…….

April 30, 2020 - Posted by | civil liberties, France

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