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Three out on bail in train sabotage case

Article published on the 2008-12-03 Latest update 2009-05-19 13:48 TU

Police sent to arrest sabotage suspects in Tarnac, Corrèze, November 2008.(Photo: Reuters)

Police sent to arrest sabotage suspects in Tarnac, Corrèze, November 2008.
(Photo: Reuters)

Three of far-left activists arrested for sabotaging several high-speed trains in early November were released on bail Tuesday, leaving only the group’s leader and his girlfriend in custody. Ten were originally arrested.

“It’s a relative victory,” said lawyer Irène Terrel, who is part of the group’s defence team, "[but] there are two people who are still in prison.”

Julien Coupat, 34, the alleged leader of the group which calls itself the “invisible cell”, and his girlfriend Yldune whose surname has not been released, face the more serious charge of leading a terrorist group, while the rest are charged with association with terrorists.

“It’s a first step, but it’s really a pretty radical disavowal of the [prosecution's] case" Terrel added.

The lawyers, speaking to the press, slammed the terrorism charges, which could carry up to 20 years in prison, pointing out the acts of sabotage caused no deaths or injuries.

On the night 7-8 November, bent iron rods were hung on the overhead electric wires that power trains on several different parts of France’s high-speed TGV rail lines. At the time, disgruntled railway workers were suspected because of the expertise required to fashion and place the booby-traps without being electrocuted.

Ten activists with known connections with the anarchist movement known as "autonomes" in France, were arrested in the Corrèze region on 15 November. One was immediately released, followed by four others shortly afterwards, leaving the alleged hard core of the group in custody.

The group, ranging in age from 22 to 34, was under police surveillance for allegedly writing two anarchist manifestos that advocated the use of sabotage to bring down the government.

The books, l’Appel and l’Insurrection qui vient, were written anonymously between 2004 and 2007, and explicitly mention the sabotage of TGV trains as a means of revolt.

Several of the members of the group were identified in the area where the sabotages were committed on the night of the crimes, but the group’s lawyers claim that there is no solid evidence to convict the group.

Terrel says that her clients “were guilty upon arrest. We have the feeling that the dice have been cast, that they’ve been convicted before we’ve even started.”

In Corrèze, a rural region in central France, a support group has been founded.

“Maybe they participated in the sabotage,” says Thierry Letellier, the mayor of a local village, “but it’s delinquency, not terrorism.”