Tarnac, General Store

Anarchist farmers vs. Inspector Clouseau

The road to Tarnac
The road to Tarnac, Tarnac, France, 2011. Courtesy of David Dufresne.

In the spring of 2007, a small left-wing press in Paris published a book called The Coming Insurrection. Its anonymous authors, who went by the name the Invisible Committee, argued that the riots that had spread through France’s immigrant banlieues a year earlier signaled an impending wave of antistate action. The new form of protest imagined by the Invisible Committee would make no demands and have no hierarchical organization. Rather, the coming movement would be built around independent, self-sustaining communes and the sabotage of centralized infrastructure. Two months after The Coming Insurrection was published, Nicolas Sarkozy won the French presidential election on a promise to “liquidate once and for all” the antiauthoritarian legacy of the 1968 student movement. The identity of the Invisible Committee soon became a subject of official concern.

The French intelligence service linked The Coming Insurrection’s literary fingerprints—a highly specific theoretical framework and elegant style—to a former graduate student named Julien Coupat, who had ended his studies in intellectual history to edit the short-lived journal Tiqqun (1999–2001). As government interest in the far left increased, Coupat’s name began to appear in surveillance reports on a group of young people who had purchased farmland in Limousin, a region of France with a long tradition of rural communism. The farm’s new owners, a loose affiliation of twenty to thirty-five students and activists, had moved to the small village of Tarnac to create an autonomous, decentralized, and ecologically sustainable community. Some worked to restore the farm; others converted the local general store (whose proprietors had retired) into a cooperative, an art space, and a political meeting point. Ignoring the Tarnac group’s horizontal power structure, the police reports singled out Coupat as their leader.

In July 2008, Sarkozy merged the two existing French domestic intelligence agencies into the French Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence, under the control of his former department, the Ministry of Interior. As one of its first cases, the new super-agency—called the “FBI à la Française” by the Sarkozy Administration—assumed control of the Tarnac investigation. On November 11, Julien Coupat, his girlfriend Yildune Lévy-Gueant, and seven Tarnac group members were arrested on charges of terrorist conspiracy. The immediate cause of the arrests was a series of acts of vandalism that the police saw as an attempt to sabotage national infrastructure: in three different parts of the country, horseshoe-shaped iron bars had been hooked over the power cables of high-speed train lines, disrupting the electrical supply and delaying Saturday morning traffic by several hours.

The arrests and subsequent revelations of illegal police wiretapping and file-tampering propelled the Tarnac case into the class of political scandal the French call an affaire. Its most dedicated chronicler to date has been the journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Hunter S. Thompson devotee David Dufresne. His book Tarnac, magasin général [Tarnac General Store], published last March, brings together government documentation and testimony with forty wide-ranging interviews that Dufresne conducted with those involved, including members of the Tarnac group, government administrators, and anonymous police sources, whom he named after his Harley-Davidsons.

—Namara Smith

Ministry of the Interior, Overseas, and the Collective Territories, Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division of the Judicial Police, Request to open a preliminary investigation.

I have the honor of bringing to your attention the following information communicated by our intelligence service: an illicit anarcho-autonomous group, with operations on French soil and links to militants of the same ideology embedded abroad, is planning to commit violent acts for the purpose of seriously disturbing the public order through intimidation. This group of some twenty activists, with bases of operation in Paris as well as the provinces, has conspired with foreign extremists in order to build a subversive force. On January 31, 2008, one of the leaders of this group and a female Parisian anarcho-autonomist militant illegally entered Canada from the United States on foot, having first left a backpack in the vehicle of a Canadian national that was found by the police as the car went through an immigration checkpoint. These two French activists are:

Julien Coupat
Born April 4, 1974 in Bordeaux (Gironde)
French nationality
Resident of Paris (11th arrondissement)

Yildune Allegra Lévy-Gueant
Born May 22, 1983 in Paris (20th arrondissement)
French nationality
Resident of Paris (20th arrondissement)

In their search of the backpack, the Canadian authorities discovered Julien Coupat’s French driver’s license, subversive English-language texts, transcriptions of meetings, and photographs of Times Square in New York. It should be noted that on March 6, 2008, the American army recruitment center in Times Square was the object of an attempted grenade attack that caused material damages to the building. The American intelligence services have not yet identified the responsible parties. According to the information communicated by our intelligence services, Julien Coupat and Yildune Allegra Lévy-Gueant attended a meeting of American anarchists in New York from January 10 to January 15, 2008. This group of activists regularly meets at Julien Coupat’s place of residence in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, and has access to several other bases of operation in the country, the principal one an agricultural property, Le Goutailloux, located at Javaux in Tarnac (Creuse). In addition to their links to North American associations, Julien Coupat’s group has maintained close relations with European activists, whom they met through international gatherings of the anarcho-autonomist movement held in Poland, Spain, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Alain Bauer, security consultant. Interviewed by David Dufresne on February 26, 2009.

Two months after the Tarnac arrests, Alain Bauer invited me to dinner near the office building that housed his small business in security advice and crisis management, AB Associates, on Boulevard de Sebastopol, Paris. In the press, the criminologist was known as the person who drew police attention to the book The Coming Insurrection and its anonymous authors, the Invisible Committee. Since then, the police had become convinced that the Tarnac group and the members of the Invisible Committee were one and the same. The book had become one of the central pieces of their investigation. They clung to its pages as no reader had before them, with the exception of Bauer himself and, later, the judge of the case, Thierry Fragnoli. In Tomatoes, a literary meditation on the affair, the poet Nathalie Quintaine found the right words: “In the end, the only really interesting books are the ones read by the police.”

There was nothing ministerial about the entrance to the building on Sebastopol that housed AB Associates. Scratched buzzer labels and a dingy vestibule were punctuated by the constant traffic of fabric suppliers making deliveries to the small workshops of the surrounding garment manufacturers, and of the prostitutes who had set up along Rue Blondel. The offices themselves were in perfect opposition to Alain Bauer’s clean-cut image. They were small and untidy, cluttered with crates of books and disordered folders. Every inch of the walls was covered in letters of mission, distinctions, diplomas—from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, Peking University Law School, the Great Orient of France (of which Bauer was the Great Master), the Observatory of Delinquency, the National Commission of Video Surveillance, the Department of Research on Contemporary Criminals—and, finally, a photo of Bauer and Nicolas Sarkozy, then minister of the interior. Sarkozy appears as small and nervous as Bauer does strong and cold. The snapshot had the best spot in the office, the most valuable location, where the whole team could admire it several times a day: above the photocopier.

Police minutes D15
By: Arnaud X, Police Captain
Counterterrorism Division of the Judicial Police
Object: Examination of the pamphlet The Coming Insurrection

The first seven chapters of the book, arranged in a structure that recalls Dante’s Inferno, advance a theoretical argument that contemporary society is a “stinking corpse.” This argument concludes with a call to “get rid of the body.” It is followed by a description of communities such as the one currently under surveillance, and by a list of means to sabotage the state and justifications for the use of such means. The book’s recurrent targets are anything and everything that can be described analogously as part of the network of power that ensures the survival of the state and of the consumer society that it protects.

Bauer was at his office when one of his clerks showed him a suggestion from Amazon: ‘‘If you’ve enjoyed these other works, you would love The Coming Insurrection.” It’s impressive, this instrument of Amazon’s, Bauer said. And he ordered forty copies.

“I must be this book’s best reader.” He smiled.

“When was this?” I asked.

“When it came out, in the spring of 2007. Speaking for myself, I didn’t find it bad, The Coming Insurrection. I even thought it was quite well written.” From The Coming Insurrection:

This book is signed in the name of an imaginary collective. Its editors are not its authors. They were content merely to introduce a little order into the common-places of our time, collecting some of the murmuring around barroom tables and behind closed bedroom doors. They’ve done nothing more than lay down a few necessary truths, whose universal repression fills psychiatric hospitals with patients, and eyes with pain. They’ve made themselves scribes of the situation. It’s the privileged feature of radical circumstances that a rigorous application of logic leads to revolution. It’s enough just to say what is before our eyes and not to shrink from the conclusions.

Everything happens in cycles, Bauer claimed. The end of the ’00s recalled the beginning of the ’70s, when radical groups plunged into armed conflict. “In criminology,” he said, “what is new is that we have forgotten. That is the first hour of my class. The Coming Insurrection stands apart from most recent anarchist literature. It offers a supported argument, intellectual finesse; above all, on page 101, there is a user’s manual.”

From The Coming Insurrection:

No need to dwell too long on the three types of workers’ sabotage: reducing the speed of work, from “easy does it” pacing to the “work-to-rule” strike; breaking the machines, or hindering their function; and divulging company secrets. Broadened to the dimensions of the whole social factory, the principles of sabotage can be applied to both production and circulation. The technical infrastructure of the metropolis is vulnerable. Its flows amount to more than the transportation of people and commodities. Information and energy circulate via wire networks, fibers and channels, and these can be attacked. Nowadays sabotaging the social machine with any real effect involves reappropriating and reinventing the ways of interrupting its networks. How can a TGV line or an electrical network be rendered useless? How does one find the weak points in computer networks, or scramble radio waves and fill screens with white noise?

A few days after reading The Coming Insurrection, Bauer met with another of the President’s friends, Frédéric Péchenard, the director of the national police. Bauer recited his concerns about autonomous movements. He concluded by giving Péchenard, as he had many others, a copy of the book. Between its pages Bauer had slipped a small note: You should read this passage here. It’s a step backwards.

“And how did Péchenard respond?”

“At the time, he said nothing. Later, he told me that he had asked French intelligence to look into the group. Later still, I learned that the Tarnac group was already under surveillance by then.”

“And the other thirty-nine copies of The Coming Insurrection, what did you do with them?”

Bauer stroked his chin. “I gave them to journalists.”

“Sportster,” anonymous Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence agent. Interviewed by David Dufresne at regular intervals between late 2009 and late 2010, most often in the presence of a third party.

For the Sarkozy Administration’s new Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence, the Tarnac affair was more than a case that went wrong. It was part of a wider culture clash between the previously distinct Territorial Surveillance and General Intelligence agencies. The old hands from General Intelligence weren’t taking well to the discipline of counterespionage brought by the change: the cult of compartment­alization, the loss of autonomy, the secret channels for the transmission of sensitive information, the sacrosanct principle of need-to-know. Sportster sounded like any victim of a merger/acquisition, suffering from organizational restructuring and a new job description. “You have to understand,” she said when we met, “they don’t even ask us to find information anymore, just to confirm what the police have already collected.”

“In fact, the Tarnac group was a nuisance,” Sportster added. “Guys who thought well, who thought quickly, but terrorists? No. We realized very quickly there was nothing to see. A pain in the ass, that’s all. To be honest, at the beginning of our surveillance of Coupat we had nothing but a name, an address, and a photo. We couldn’t have cared less about him. That must have been in early 2008. Six months later, in June, we had an eight-hundred-page file on him. In September, two or three thousand pages. Investigations of the surroundings, architectural plans, verifications of residence.

“That’s where we spent our summer vacations, on the plateau of Millevaches. That was all we got,” Sportster sighed.

It had been a custom in the old General Intelligence services to head to Ajaccio or Basque Country with flip-flops, Bermudas, baseball cap, and then swap vacation stories back in Paris. At night, at Goutailloux, some agents used to spy on the girls when they were in the shower, Sportster told me, taking care to protect her sources.

“You know, you were there, right? The shower’s outside, it’s just a pipe between two boards.”

But the cops never entered the farm itself, she swore. It would raise too many suspicions.

“During the surveillance, I crossed paths with Tarnac people more than once,” Sportster said. “But they would have had a hard time recognizing me. I’d wear a blue cap, then a brown jacket, then a yellow one, and so on. We would exchange clothes among colleagues . . . For us, physical surveillance is irreplaceable. It wears the targets down. They can try all the counterespionage moves they want, you know, like waiting until the last minute to get in or out of the subway car—it’s still easy. Physical surveillance is worth all the tags in the world.”

“Yes, the tags. Tell me . . . how does that work, it’s like a bug that you put on their cars?”

“It’s the size of a flea. You have different models. The difference is the electrical feed. Some tags take a charge straight from the car battery. Those are the most sophisticated. Others have their own battery, but they have to be recharged.”

“And your cameras in the trees also need to be recharged, don’t they?”

“The ones in the village were hardest. My colleagues had to take them down and recharge the batteries. Every time we moved them, it increased the chances that they’d be knocked down.”

“And listening equipment?”

“With the Tarnac gang, there was nothing given . . . We suspected as much, and didn’t hope for great results. For us, the important thing wasn’t so much what they said—we knew that they didn’t trust the phone—as who was talking to whom and who was where.”

“And you would often listen to them on a live feed?”

“That’s how we knew when they’d pick people up at the train station in Limoges. People of interest to us—activists, foreigners.”

“These were the écoutes administratives, ordered by the state and not by a judge, right?”

“Yes, the government wiretaps are authorized in writing by the Prime Minister’s cabinet, and then no one ever hears of them. They just go in our files. . . . Others are judicially authorized as ‘technical means’ in the court documents, without being talked about too much. These ones are like the cameras, neither legal nor illegal—they just don’t exist. And then there are the legal wiretaps, the ones you’ve seen in the trial record.”

One habit that the merger of the two intelligence services hadn’t changed was the reliance on informants. There was a difference in vocabulary between the Territorial Surveillance agents who used the term targets, and the General Intelligence investigators who preferred objectives, but generally, the two groups understood each other on this front. According to Sportster, the Tarnac affair was no exception to the rule. She confirmed that yes, the cops had informers in high places in the autonomist movement.

“We had firsthand information,” she bragged. “Certain sources presented themselves spontaneously.”

“What methods did you use to make them talk?”

“In this case, two informants needed papers. Often in Islamic terrorism cases, they need authorization to open a business, like a kebab shop. Or there’s something they need expunged from the record: a permit to be paid, a bill to be settled, a student card to be authorized, an internet subscription. We have a department that rewards sources directly, if necessary. And in this case, it helped that the wider autonomist movement hated part of the Tarnac gang. Coupat especially. His image as a manipulator, a thinker rather than a man of action, his background, his cash, his elitism.”

Michel Delpuech, head of cabinet to former French Minister of State Michèle Alliot-Marie. Interviewed by David Dufresne on February 16, 2009.

“Do you remember what happened on November 8, 2008?”

“Yes, absolutely,” said Michel Delpuech. “Very early, we were informed of trouble with the SNCF, the national railway system. There were two things: first a suicide on the Paris-Lille line, and then a problem with the overhead cable on another line. We were very attentive, because there had been some small acts of sabotage a few days earlier. Pépy, the president of the SNCF, was upset. The minister kept asking, ‘What’s happening with this?’”

“Later you learned that other incidents were being reported on other SNCF lines.”

“Yes, the police told us around 3 PM.”

“And then, an urgent cabinet meeting?”

“No, but I informed the minister immediately. And during the night, the director of the police told me that their surveillance teams had seen Yildune Lévy and Julien Coupat near one of the sabotage locations, at Dhuisy. Clearly, that put the affair in a new light. It was something we needed to discuss, at least.”

“What did the minister say?”

“Like all of us, she had Coupat’s group on her mind.”

“What did she say exactly?”

“She must have said, ‘This is interesting. Keep me informed.’”

“So then in the late morning on Sunday, November 9, there was an urgent meeting?”

“The police investigators decided to question everyone in the Tarnac group as soon as possible. The questioning was carried out on Tuesday, at 6 AM.”

“Some members of the police say that it was not their decision to act urgently, but that they were directed to do so by the minister’s cabinet.”

“False. Everyone was involved in the decision.” Delpuech began to rapidly twist his glasses by the earpiece. He continued, “I know them well, you know, these police chiefs . . . When an operation doesn’t go exactly as hoped, they distance themselves. At the time, though, the service wanted to take credit for the raid. We don’t want this kind of thing to happen again, it’s true. It’s true that we said we had to act. But we didn’t dictate the conduct of the investigators! As a man of honor, I swear to you: the police themselves told us, ‘Let’s do this.’”

“Why do you think the police have swung the other way now?”

“To protect themselves, or for some political reason. I have friends there. I know how they work. We, the deciders, can only act based on the information that we are given.”

“So the idea to question everyone at Tarnac and at the other bases in Rouen and Paris on November 11, 2008, was approved?”


“By Michèle Alliot-Marie?”

“Yes, by the Minister and by everyone. At the time, we were scared they would escape. We were worried that the trail would go cold.”

Police minutes D262
November 11, 2008
6:20 AM
By: Jean-Christophe X., Police Captain
Counterterrorism Division of the Judicial Police

— It is several hours before sunrise, with weather conditions of rain and early-morning fog. The site of the operation does not have outdoor lighting.
— An initial team will cordon off the caravans located behind the main farm building in order to verify the presence of inhabitants and to secure the main peri­meter of the property, which covers a total area of forty hectares.
— A second team will penetrate the part of the main farm building that may contain permanent housing.
— A third team will penetrate the two small buildings located opposite the entrance of the farm, which may be occupied.
— Once on the site, the entire operation will be carried out on foot for maximum discretion.
— We will initiate the operation to secure the farm and question its inhabitants at 6:30 AM.
— It should be noted that the entry doors into all buildings are unlocked.

Benjamin Rosoux, one of nine Tarnac members arrested on charges of “criminal association for the purposes of terrorist activity” on November 11, 2008. (A tenth was briefly detained a year later on the same charges.) Interviewed by David Dufresne shortly after Rosoux’s release, on December 2, 2008.

“What happened on November 11, 2008, and how, and at what time?”

“On November 11, it must be around six in the morning,” Benjamin Rosoux said. “I’m asleep and I get woken up by a racket downstairs in my house. I hear heavy steps on the stairs, the cry, ‘Police! Police!’ And then the doors of the rooms are thrown open and the police come in, acting quite civilly at first. They ask us for our papers. I step forward because I am officially responsible for the farm, Le Goutailloux, and I want there to be a spokesperson. Somewhat naively, I ask if this is going to take a long time because I’m supposed to do the grocery run in an hour.”

“Because you have a truck, is that right?”

“Yes, a grocery truck.”

“At first, the cops won’t answer me directly,” he continued. “Then the chief comes in and starts messing with me. ‘Ah, it’s you, Benjamin! Ah, we know each other well!’ He talks to me in a very familiar way, making it clear he knows everything about my life. Then he tells me: ‘You, anyway, you can forget about your grocery run, we’re going to keep you for a while.’”

“What does he mean when he says, ‘We know each other?’”

“He mentions a protest against anti-immigration policies I had attended the month before in Vichy. He says something like: ‘You looked better in Vichy.’ The implication being that I looked better in Vichy than I do this morning, lying handcuffed naked on my bed. He seems to be in charge of the investigation. A young guy for his position, snotty like those guys are, constantly giving orders on the phone. He seems to be coordinating the different operations underway. He’s naming all sorts of places. I understand that the cops are at the grocery store, downstairs at the farm, and inside the other apartments of my friends in the village.”

“Do they give you a specific reason for these searches? A motive?”

“Not right away. The chief inspector leaves a document on the desk—the order to take me into custody. He doesn’t say what it’s about. It’s the cop left standing sentry beside me who looks at it and who says . . . who explains to me what’s on the paper. I am being indicted for conspiracy in connection with a terrorist organization. I am surprised by the word! And the officer is, too! He doesn’t seem really to know why he’s there either. He tells me, ‘You’re a big fish.’ ‘Ah well, I’m glad to hear it!’ He asks me, ‘Do you know why you’re being charged with this?’ I say, ‘Well, no.’”

“So, the search begins.”

“Yes. I go around the rooms with the police, starting with the attic. We do each room, one by one. There are always two or three to a room and they comb through everything they find. They search the bags, open up the furniture, dig through the drawers . . . I understand little by little what it is they’re looking for. They’re interested in any political documentation; they make a quick selection using keywords: anarchist, autonomist, demonstration. They take them. They pause over certain internal documents around the management of Le Goutailloux as well. Minutes of our meetings, information related to the place itself.”

“Because they need to prove that the building belongs to an association.”

“Exactly! We regularly organize group activities, and people pass through. That’s what the place is set up for. In short, the police examine the documents and start to refer to this person who seems to be in charge of the file, who determines what’s interesting or not. They take everything about the protests on the Vichy immigration summit. They take an issue of Libération that’s lying on the kitchen table. At the same time, there is the forensic work, CSI stuff, taking all the toothbrushes, including the children’s, even a little girl’s comb for DNA testing. Everything is gathered up, laid bare. They grab photos, letters, any notebooks that seem personal. They make us do handwriting tests so that they can determine who annotated this document, who wrote that letter.”

“This is all fairly standard.”

“Yes, but one thing makes me raise an eyebrow. We enter a room, one of the rooms where visitors stay. And in this room, the police find a bag. A plastic trash bag, right in the middle of the room, set down there. Inside, to my great dismay, are two bulletproof vests, military surplus type, camouflage. They ask me if I know where they come from. I say no . . . This is the first time I’ve seen them. I don’t understand. The first question they ask me is whether they’re going to find any weapons, and I say no. Then, they pounce on my answer and ask me again, ‘Are you sure we’re not going to find weapons?’ I say no, no, and I add that I’ve never seen that stuff before, it seems suspicious, and that I wouldn’t sign an official search record of it. Knowing that the police had been in the house for more than an hour, and that this room had been cleared, and that none of us could have seen what was happening . . . I ask myself, OK, try to think, could someone have brought this stuff here? I have no way of knowing. So, first reflex in these situations, you think it’s been planted there, that someone’s trying to set a trap. I don’t want to speculate more than I already have, and I never found out anything else, but it was very strange.”

“So then they take you outside?”

“It’s cold, I’m only half-dressed. For three hours, I go around the farm with them. Three hours because there are a lot of trailers outside the main house. We go trailer by trailer, searching systematically. Papers, letters, photographs, always the same kind of documents. And each time, their faces light up when they find what they’re looking for. At one point, one of them comes out of a trailer with a pamphlet on the autonomist movement. Then he says, ‘Oh yes—but wait, no, it’s from 1981 to 1984.’ The chief says ‘OK, take it anyway.’ All set, under seal. Same thing with a pamphlet on criminal science, the use of genetic data in surveys, things freely available on the internet. Under seal.”

“What is the atmosphere like during all of this?”

“A kind of false intimacy. The forensic police play up the scientific neutrality of their actions, telling us, ‘We have nothing against you.’ The lead investigator even says, ‘I think your ideas are really cool, but here, you’ve gone too far.’ And some of them are really quite contemptuous, making comments on our lifestyle, the state of the place, the mess in some rooms, things of no importance. And others, ‘Oh, it’s great, life in the country.’ The forensics people, in particular, wonder out loud if we frolic with the sheep and hang out in the barn.

“The idea of Goutailloux was to establish a collective structure with inhabitants who, from season to season, were more or less permanent, and with a space reserved for visitors, especially workers on the farm or in the building. So we’ve set up different workshops—for medicinal plants, a market garden, livestock. We have an orchard, a yard, a space for construction. We see what we’re doing less as a new creation than as a reappropriation. We’ve been working with the elders in the village to preserve farming techniques that disappeared with the rise of monoculture. It’s one of the links that we have with the people nearby. And then, another link, more directly political, that we have never hidden, is to explain why we came to Tarnac, what we want to do, how we want to share it. To reflect on how to inhabit one’s surroundings. How to keep rural areas from becoming tourist attractions and farmers from becoming landscape gardeners. We never wanted a simple return to the earth. Most of us continued our activities in town, paid and unpaid. There was regular interchange between the city and the country.”

Police minutes D277
November 13, 2008
2 PM
By: Jérôme X., Police Sergeant
Counterterrorism Division of the Judicial Police
Fourth interview with Benjamin Rosoux

Question: Can you describe your way of life? How would you characterize it?

Answer: The idea was to invest in the life of a village in order to re-create its diverse links. To become acquainted with the people, to exchange goods, to autonomize the life of the village, and from there to expand outwards to neighboring villages. Tarnac is in a relatively remote area with an aging population. There are few services and little economic activity, and so it lacks a structure for developing new ideas that meet the real needs of everyday life.

Q: What do you mean when you say “autonomize the life of the village”?

A: To empower the region so it need no longer rely on the nearest cities for its food, medical care, and leisure activities. To make life easier and more fruitful for everyone.

Q: Would this be considered an “autonomist” way of life?

A: No, no, I don’t know what you mean by that word. Autonomists are separatists like the Basques or the Bretons. I’m talking about the independence of elderly villagers, not a political concept. Autonomy is just the opposite of dependence.

Drawn from the examination of Julien Coupat by examining magistrate Thierry Fragnoli over the period from November 15, 2008, to May 27, 2009.

Minutes of first appearance D693
November 15, 2008, 3:40 PM

Before Us, Thierry Fragnoli, examining magistrate of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance pretrial investigation, being in judges’ chambers, has appeared the following person:

 M. Julien Coupat, born 1974 in Bordeaux–Majeur.

This person states:

“I wish to make a statement explaining my silence. I have clearly been under surveillance since April, an investigation that has culminated in my arrest. What is strange in this situation is that an individual is being condemned, first and foremost, for his intentions, and only secondly for the actions that carry out these intentions. The acts of which I stand accused are two instances of vandalism that did not pose a threat to human life and do not merit the charge of terrorism. You can see how silence is the only way to conduct myself in keeping with this kind of procedure.

“The second thing is that counterterrorism is the modern form of a witch trial. All these interviews have very obviously aimed to prove that I am the leader, the guru, of a so-called ‘anarcho-autonomist’ organization. Please explain this paradox to me: I am somehow the leader—a person, that is, who denies the autonomy of his followers—of a group of people who have been accused of being autonomists.”

We notify the person that he is being held for “direction and organization of a criminal association for the purpose of terrorist activity.”

We advise the person who is being held that, by current ordinance, we refer to the examining magistrate to determine whether he should be placed provisionally in detention.

Notification complete, the person being held for examination confirms his statement with us and the clerk.

Examination D777
Paris, December 12, 2008

Judge’s note: We advise M. Coupat that we’re obliged to question him about his background and personality, as he refused to respond to questions on these issues during his detention.

Elements of personality:

Question: What studies have you undertaken, and what is the highest level of education you’ve completed?

Answer: I have a postgraduate degree in intellectual history and a diploma from the École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales.

Before I go on, I want to say two things. First, I won’t respond to questions about people I know because I don’t want the simple fact of my acquaintance to link them to a terrorist operation. Second, I refuse to respond to all questions concerning my political ideas.

On the acts:

Q: What can you tell me about the works published by Tiqqun?

A: I will not respond to this question.

Q: What can you tell me about the work entitled The Coming Insurrection?

A: I give you the same response as to the preceding question.

Judge’s note: We advise M. Coupat we’ll return to these details in future examinations on these works, while respecting the opinions that the above-mentioned may have of them, as he has stated to us.

Q: In January 2008, it would seem that you found yourself in North America. Can you clarify the reasons for your trip, your itinerary, and your activities once there?

A: Tourism.

Q: If, as you say, you were a tourist, can you explain your refusal to respond more fully to such a harmless question?

A: This investigation began as an American counterterrorism operation, so you are sufficiently informed of the details of my time there, and so are the Americans. As a matter of fact, I went to New York and other places. If the American authorities have something to accuse me of, let them come and accuse me. I don’t see how my visit to the United States concerns the French justice system.

Q: You were found on the night of November 7 to 8, 2008, in the company of Yildune Lévy in Seine-et-Marne. For what reason did you undertake this nighttime expedition?

A: The police surveillance of which we were the object, which we noticed repeatedly, had an unpleasant character that made it desirable to be rid of it.

Q: Where did you take each other during this nocturnal travel and who decided on the location?

A: We took the AN3, and then drove into the country to try to avoid being followed. We had no respite, since wherever we went, thirty seconds after we stopped, even in the most remote spots, cars kept popping up. I don’t know if it’s necessary for me to give you the license plate numbers . . .

Q: How do you explain that the location where you were found on the night of November 7 to 8, 2008, with Yildune Lévy was precisely the location where an act of sabotage with the intention of obstructing traffic on the TGV line had been committed?

A: I had a premonition? I didn’t know more than anyone else did.

Examination D897
Paris, February 11, 2009

Travel and contact:

Q: Was your passage to the United States with Yildune Lévy planned before your departure for Canada or did you make this decision after you arrived in Canada?

A: It was a possibility. I didn’t know whether it was possible to walk across the border like that. For me, refusal to submit voluntarily to biometric scanning is an ethical principle.

Q: Why did you go to the United States if you didn’t accept the country’s laws?

A: Because it’s a great and beautiful country and the rules of entry to the United States are not a good enough reason not to pay a visit to my friends.

On the work entitled The Coming Insurrection:

Q: Curiously, the dates October 25 and November 7 are not as harmless as they appear, since everyone knows that October 25 in the Julian calendar—which is November 7 in the Gregorian calendar—is the date remembered by history as that of the Petrograd Insurrection, a key episode in the Russian Revolution . . . that targeted strategic points such as bridges and train stations. This same night of October 25 to 26, 1917, (the night of November 7 to 8, 1917 in the Gregorian calendar) the Winter Palace was taken by insurgents. The Coming Insurrection alludes to this very episode. One might conclude that the choice of October 25 and November 7 by those responsible for the damage to the TGV lines was a symbol meant for these saboteurs alone, an homage, that is, a message in the same vein as The Coming Insurrection, a work that in places seems to read more as a series of concrete acts its authors plan to carry out than as a work of political philosophy. What do you think of this?

A: I see an intellectual achievement and a coherent scenario on your part, but I see no relationship with my humble self.

Q: During a radio interview, Eric Hazan, The Coming Insurrection’s editor, seems to have “forgotten himself” and identified you as the author. Indeed, when the interviewer asked him about the book, M. Hazan explained that you are a “philosopher” and that you have written a “work of philosophy.” Given this declaration and the multiple other pieces of corroborating evidence that we just mentioned, do you still dispute that you are the principal, if not the only, author of the work entitled The Coming Insurrection?

A: Absolutely, I dispute it.

Examination D899
Paris, February 13, 2009

On the vandalism of the TGV-Est line in the village of Dhuisy (Seine-et-Marne) on the night of November 7 and morning of November 8, 2008:

Q: At 11 PM, you began to drive in the direction of Meaux, then took a U-turn. At 11:10 PM, your vehicle went back on the road heading from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and made a U-turn in the direction of Meaux, and then another U-turn toward Trilport. At 11:40 PM, the vehicle stopped with the headlights off for several hours. Fog on the windows suggested a continued presence inside. On the morning of November 8, 2008, at 3:50 AM, it began to move again in the direction of Dhuisy. At 4 AM, the vehicle took a road on the left, heading down a path where it had been seen at 9:05 PM the previous night. You must have been lost. Why else would you drive twice over the same route?

A: That night, I had to stop something like a dozen times, and I made as many, if not more, U-turns. As soon as we were on the side roads, we had the feeling that we were being followed. This led to no great counterespionage techniques— we simply stopped in the middle of nowhere to see who was coming. Even though it was an unpleasant feeling, it was almost like a game to stop and to look for the spying cars. I remember a red Citroën, registration 92, with particularly gross conduct. Before going to a pizzeria, we stopped at a roadside inn and asked the landlady if she had a room for the night and if she had anything left to eat. She told us that the price was 45 euros a night, but that all the rooms were full. Everywhere else in the town was around 65 to 70 euros a night, which was too expensive for us. Under the circumstances, we decided to sleep in the car in front of the inn. After a few hours, the cold woke us up. We felt like making love, so we drove back to one of the remote spots in the middle of the country where we had been earlier that night.

Q: At 4:05 AM, the vehicle in which you and Yildune Lévy had been driving around aimlessly for several hours was seen, with its headlights off, at the entrance to an RD23 service route in Dhuisy, several meters before the railroad bridge. For what reason or reasons? At 4:20 AM the vehicle turned on its headlights and started moving again. It made another stop at the foot of a bridge from the Marne to Trilport, and then started off in the direction of Paris around 5 AM. Do you have an explanation for this?

A: Because it was dark, I could not give you our precise location. I can tell you that it was an uninhabited area that was sufficiently undisturbed for us to make love, one where there was no chance that someone passing by would bother us. As for the stop that you mention at the foot of the bridge, I don’t remember, we stopped several times.

Q: How do you explain that, on this same night of November 7 and morning of November 8, 2008, when you were found with Yildune Lévy in a deserted location in the country of Seine-et-Marne, in close proximity to a TGV line where you had no business being, your friends Benjamin Rosoux and Gabrielle Hallez were stopped at a checkpoint at 12:45 AM forty-six kilometers from Baccarat, four kilometers from the CASTOR line (a train that transports nuclear waste), and ten kilometers from the TGV-Est line, where they had no apparent reason to be?

A: I have no further explanation. You will note that it was the weekend.

The Judge to M. Coupat: I note above all that it was November 7, a date we spoke of earlier, the symbolism of which you acknowledged as an intellectual achievement and a coherent scenario on my part.

M. Coupat: I hope that the irony of my response with regard to this intellectual achievement did not escape you.

Q: If the policemen who stopped your friends that night had asked them to open the trunk of their car, what do you think they would have found?

A: In spite of my proven talent for clairvoyance, I have no solution to this enigma.

Examination D1236
Paris, May 27, 2009

Q: In a document found in your possession dated January 2008, it’s possible to make out the following phrases, in your handwriting: “Remember that the name Tiqqun on the covers of our books is only one of a thousand possible points of spirit from which all such writings emanate. This web of spirit is the center the West is built around, and the only thing that will survive its destruction. For us, the question has never been anything but how to constitute a force capable of dealing civilization a fatal blow, laying that civilization to rest so its decomposition can no longer pollute the air.” Can you describe this force you would like to constitute that would be capable of dealing civilization a fatal blow and laying it to rest? And how would this fatal blow be carried out?

A: Through the incarnation of pure virtue.

Q: Nothing else?

A: Nothing else.

—Translated from the French by Namara Smith

—Translated from the French by Namara Smith

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