A French socialist student from Toulouse has been threatened with prison for demonstrating against the death of a young environmental activist, killed last October when French riot police launched a grenade attack on a protest demonstration by environmentalists, reports Harry Blackwell.
The student activist, Gaëtan, a member of the French socialist organisation the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), was originally fined 1,100 euros in December for participating in a demonstration against the killing of Rémi Fraisse. [Rémi Fraisse was a young environmental activist and botanist killed by French police at a protest against the ecological damage threatened by the construction of the Sivens Dam.]
In a shocking decision the French appeal court decided last week to sentence Gaëtan to two months in jail plus a further four months suspended. Other activists arrested on the demonstration also face imprisonment. Meanwhile police complicit in the killing of unarmed demonstrators are walking free.
The lawyers of the student activists are considering appealing to the French Supreme Court against this criminalisation of protest and have launched an international petition. Urgent action is needed especially from the international student and trade union movement. Please sign the petition at the link below and pass emergency resolutions in student union, trade union branches, Left Unity and other political branches.
Sign the International Petition Now!
“Don’t send Gaëtan and other activists to prison for demonstrating!
On April 1, 2015, the court issued the verdict of the appeal against the conviction of Gaëtan, a trade union activist of the student movement Solidaires étudiant-e-s and a member of the New Party Anticapitaliste (NPA) in Toulouse, France. In December 2014, Gaëtan had been given a suspended two-month prison sentence, and ordered to pay a fine of 1,100 euros, for participating in a demonstration to protest against the death of a young environmental activist, Rémi Fraisse, who died after being hit by a grenade launched by riot police on October 26, 2014.
But the verdict of the appeal court made things worse, since Gaëtan was now sentenced to two months in jail with a further four months suspended, as well as having to pay the fine of 1,100 euros. Other activists had their original sentences confirmed too and they also face imprisonment.
The sentences take place against the backdrop of the escalation of repression and criminalisation of social protest. Examples of this in Toulouse are the eviction of the anti-Sivens dam protesters from their camp, the militarisation of the city when there is a demonstration, the eviction of the CGT (trade union) from their office in a social centre, and the banning of a meeting in support of the Palestinian people. The same people who, since the (Charlie Hebdo) attacks in Paris in January, have been defending freedom of expression now want to jail young activists for participating in protests. The message is clear: anyone who dares to challenge the exceptional measures in place will pay dearly.
At the same time, the police agents responsible for the death of Rémi Fraisse are walking free and unpunished. Two police officers involved in the death of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré were acquitted almost ten years after the event. The deaths of Zyed and Bouna in October 2005 triggered riots on the run-down estates in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris, where the boys lived, which soon spread across the country. Even when police officers have been sentenced, they have escaped jail. This was the case in the killing of Malik Oussékine in 1986. Malik had been participating in mass student protests in Paris against university reforms when he was arrested and subsequently died in police custody. In addition, the agent who fired a flare at a crowd of students in 2010, which led to one student losing an eye, was not sent to prison.
The undersigned say NO to this travesty of justice! Over the next few days the defence team has to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the sentence is maintained, the judge will decide the precise sentence. We express our solidarity with Gaëtan and all activists facing charges, and our condemnation of the imprisonment of those participating in protests.
[NB SR has made a few small typographical and explanatory alterations in the above translation].