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Focus on France 14 October 2008

Ten people detained on suspicion of spying on ex-presidential candidate

Article published on the 2008-10-14 Latest update 2008-10-15 15:43 TU

Olivier Besancenot(Photo: AFP)

Olivier Besancenot
(Photo: AFP)

Ten people were detained by Paris police on Tuesday on suspicion of spying on Olivier Besancenot, the spokesman for France's Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) party. Besancenot is a former presidential candidate and while he took only four per cent of the vote in 2007, he is regularly identified as one of the most popular politicians on the left in France.

A spying plot on Olivier Besancenot?

14/10/2008 by Angela Diffley

The ten brought into custody include policemen, detectives from a private detective agency and Antoine di Zazzo, the head of the company that sells Taser guns in France. They were detained as part of a probe into claims by Besancenot, following an investigation by Express magazine, that he has been spied on from October 2007 to January this year.

SMP technologies is taking Besancenot to court for having referred to the number of people who have died in the US from Taser pistols which fires 50,000 volts as a "non-lethal" deterrant. This trial is due to open next week on 20 October.

Besancenot has said Di Zazzo is "seeking 50,000 euros from me just because I drew attention to an Amnesty International report", referring to an Amnesty document that says Taser weapons have caused hundreds of deaths and have called for a moratorium on their use.

Di Zazzo is suspected of having commissioned police, private detectives and bank employees to spy on the LCR spokesman. Last May the businessman denied the accusations saying, "We never asked to have Mr. Besancenot followed - Why would we? His private life is of interest to us."

The suspicions concern the consulting of the vehicle registation and bank account details of  Besancenot as well as photographs of his partner and child outside their home.

Reports in France on Tuesday claimed a link had already been established between the detective agency, which is run by a former police officer, and Di Zazzo's SMP Technologies.

News of the detentions comes shortly after opposition in France to a new Intelligence-gathering bill, called Edvige. Besancenot said the allegation of the spying plot was "one more reason to oppose Edvige."

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