Leftwing 'anarchist terror cell' is fiction, French judges rule
French judges have acquitted eight people accused of being part of an anarchist group that attempted to sabotage part of France’s high-speed rail network a decade ago, ruling that the group itself had been a “fiction”.
Defence lawyers had accused the government and authorities under the former rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy of wrongly claiming there was a hotbed of leftwing anarchist terrorists in a sleepy village in central France and manipulating the case in order to look tough.
The notorious case, known as the Tarnac affair, began in November 2008 when more than a hundred French police officers swooped on the tiny rural village of Tarnac, arresting anti-capitalists who were living on a communal farm and running a village shop. In a vast media operation, the then rightwing government and French authorities alleged that the so-called Tarnac Nine were a cell of dangerous subversives intent on anarchist armed insurrection to overthrow the state.
At the time, villagers and the accused denied the charges, rights groups said the case was a misuse of anti-terrorism laws and lawyers said the case was deliberately being manipulated to make the government look tough against a supposed “enemy within”.
After 10 years of investigation — in which terrorist charges were dropped — and a three week trial, the two main accused – Julien Coupat, a business and sociology graduate, and his archeologist girlfriend, Yildune Lévy – were cleared of sabotage or belonging to any group.
“The hearing has allowed it to be demonstrated that the Tarnac group was a fiction,” the leading judge said.
“This is a humiliation for the anti-terrorism services of the time, for the magistrate who instructed the case, as well as for the anti-terrorist prosecutor,” said the lawyer Jérémie Assous, who defended several of those acquitted.
It emerged during the investigation that a former British police spy had infiltrated the group and made claims against them. French authorities did not pursue charges on those elements and Coupat had described the spy as “insignificant”.