French riot police deploy assault rifles at 'yellow vest' demonstrations

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CRS riot police with HKG36 assault rifles in central Paris on January 12th. © DR CRS riot police with HKG36 assault rifles in central Paris on January 12th. © DR

A document obtained by Mediapart reveals that the national director of France’s CRS riot police ordered the deployment of Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles during nationwide demonstrations on January 12th by the ‘yellow vest’ movement. The militarisation of policing tactics during the recurrent demonstrations, in protest over falling living standards for low- and middle-income earners, includes an almost systematic use of rubber bullets and stun grenades that have caused numerous serious injuries. Karl Laske reports on the arsenal employed and the dramatic consequences of the escalating violence.

French protests: the urgent need to ban use of maiming 'crowd control' weapons

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A 'yellow vest' protestor lies injured in Paris, January 12th 2019. © Reuters A 'yellow vest' protestor lies injured in Paris, January 12th 2019. © Reuters

France’s ‘yellow vest’ protestors were back on the streets this weekend, as their movement calling for better living standards for low- and middle-income earners held its tenth nationwide day of action. While some demonstrations have been marred by violence from extremist groups, there is mounting criticism of aggressive police tactics. These notably include the widespread and often indiscriminate use of rubber bullets and stun grenades that have caused, according to several estimations, around 100 serious and life-changing injuries to protestors and bystanders. Mediapart co-editor Carine Fouteau argues here why these highly dangerous weapons, which France is one of very few countries to deploy in such situations, should be immediately banned from crowd-control policing.

Football Leaks: arrested whistleblower Rui Pinto agreed to help French and Swiss prosecutors

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Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower linked to the Football Leaks revelations, was released on conditional bail by a Hungarian court on Friday after his arrest following an extradition demand issued by the Portuguese authorities. Pinto, 30, who is to fight the extradition demand, is accused of attempted extortion and data theft. Mediapart can confirm that he is cooperating with French prosecution services and has agreed to help Swiss prosecutors in separate investigations into suspected tax evasion and corruption revealed by the Football Leaks documents.

Carlos Ghosn: the contrast between severity in Japan and impunity in France

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The case of the arrest and continued detention in Japan of Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct has revealed the severity of the Japanese judicial system, which again denied him bail at a hearing in Tokyo this week. But it has also illustrated the situation of impunity granted in France to numerous high-placed individuals like Ghosn, writes Mediapart co-founder Laurent Mauduit in this opinion article. For while it now appears that the French government is finally moving towards his replacement as head of the French carmaker, economy and finance minister Bruno Le Maire has until now done his utmost to protect Ghosn, even declaring that there was ‘nothing in particular to report’ on his tax situation in France, when in fact the boss of one of France's biggest industrial corporations has been a tax resident in the Netherlands since 2012.

The 'yellow vests' who are experimenting with direct democracy

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The first appeal made by the 'yellow vests at Commercy in north-east France. © DR The first appeal made by the 'yellow vests at Commercy in north-east France. © DR

Two months ago in the small town of Commercy in north-east France a group of 'yellow vest' protestors created a citizens popular assembly. It is gaining supporters: on January 26th around 30 delegations from across France will gather in the town. François Bonnet reports on a local experiment in what some yellow vests define as “libertarian municipalism”, a concept pioneered by American social theorist Murray Bookchin.

Prosecutors to rule over rape claims against French film director Luc Besson

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The bruise to her left eye and the three marks on the back of actress Sand Van Roy. © Documents Mediapart The bruise to her left eye and the three marks on the back of actress Sand Van Roy. © Documents Mediapart

A file on the preliminary investigations by detectives into allegations of rape against celebrated French film director Luc Besson has been handed to state prosecutors in Paris who are now analysing it. Among the elements that police officers have examined are a series of photographs of the complainant, Belgian-Dutch actress Sand Van Roy, and a report from medical forensic experts confirming the presence of unexplained injuries on her body. Besson strongly denies the claims. Marine Turchi reports.

'Yellow vests': government violence is stoking violence in the country

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A work by artist Pascal Boyart, alias PBOY, in homage to the 'yellow vests', on the walls of Paris, January 7th 2019. © Reuters A work by artist Pascal Boyart, alias PBOY, in homage to the 'yellow vests', on the walls of Paris, January 7th 2019. © Reuters

On Monday January 7th the French prime minster Édouard Philippe announced plans to boost the array of security powers at the state's disposal with, in particular, a new law against rioters and undeclared demonstrations, plus preventative targeting of protestors presumed to be violent. Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel points out that the prime minister did not utter a word about police violence, demonstrating that in making this repressive decision the government has turned its back on the sometimes vague democratic demands made by the 'yellow vest' protestors.

From Guinea to Bayonne: the long journey of two youths seeking France's protection

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Authorities in the French city of Bayonne are struggling to cope with the number of migrants coming from across the nearby Spanish border. Mediapart met Joseph and Moriba, 'blood  brothers' who are seeking France's protection after nearly dying at sea crossing to Europe from Morocco. After a legal battle, Joseph has now been recognised as a minor by the French courts while Moriba's request will be heard on appeal shortly. Mathilde Mathieu reports.

Yellow vest protests: citizens and politicians battle for control of political agenda

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A yellow vest protest in Paris, December 15th 2018, calling for citizens initiative referendums. © Reuters A yellow vest protest in Paris, December 15th 2018, calling for citizens initiative referendums. © Reuters

One of the key demands made by the 'yellow vest', or 'gilet jaune', protestors in France is for the holding of what are called citizens initiative referendums. How exactly should such a demand be interpreted? In an interview with Mediapart academic Julien O'Miel, a specialist in participative democracy, sees it as a desire by citizens to take control of the political agenda. Pauline Graulle reports.

Macron weakened by departures from entourage

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From left to right, part of President Macron's inner circle Stéphane Séjourné, Sylvain Fort, Julien Denormandie, Benjamin Griveaux, Richard Ferrand. In the middle is Sibeth Ndiaye. At the Élysée May 14th 2017. © Reuters From left to right, part of President Macron's inner circle Stéphane Séjourné, Sylvain Fort, Julien Denormandie, Benjamin Griveaux, Richard Ferrand. In the middle is Sibeth Ndiaye. At the Élysée May 14th 2017. © Reuters

The head of communications at the Élysée has just announced that he is to leave his post by the end of January. Sylvain Fort, who is close to Emmanuel Macron having worked alongside him for more than two years, proclaimed his “total loyalty” to the French president. But this and reports of other possible departures from the president's inner circle have further weakened a presidency which is embroiled in the affair involving former security aide Alexandre Benalla and the ongoing social movement carried out by the so-called from the yellow vest protestors. Lénaïg Bredoux reports.

State struggles to accept process of reconciliation in post-dictatorship Tunisia

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Sihem Bensedrine, president of Tunisia's Instance Vérité et Dignité (IVD) or the Truth and Dignity Commission, at its last meeting. © DR Sihem Bensedrine, president of Tunisia's Instance Vérité et Dignité (IVD) or the Truth and Dignity Commission, at its last meeting. © DR

On December 31st 2018 the independent body charged with tackling the abuses committed during the former dictatorship in Tunisia and helping victims was formally wound up after four and a half years of work. But despite the Truth and Dignity Commission's official status it has not received much support from the key organs of the state, including the presidency, in particular on the key issue of corruption. Lilia Blaise reports on the legacy of the commission's work.

Shamed Macron aide claims regular contact with president whose entourage is 'worse than the mafia'

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Emmanuel Macron with bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. © Reuters Emmanuel Macron with bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. © Reuters

The scandal surrounding President Emmanuel Macron’s disgraced former personal security aide Alexandre Benalla, who was fired over media revelations that he violently assaulted participants in May Day marches in Paris this year while illegally wearing police apparel, escalated this month after Mediapart’s revelations that he has continued to use a diplomatic passport while conducting business trips abroad, notably in Israel and several African countries. Now, in an exclusive interview with Mediapart, he claims to continue to regularly discuss ongoing political issues with Macron, despite the Élysée’s insistence that he has “no further contact” with the French president. Benalla, 27, says his mobile phone records provide the truth of his claims, while he also accuses Macron’s entourage as behaving like a “mafia” against him. Fabrice Arfi reports on the deepening mystery of Benalla’s relationship with the French president.

The Paris suburbs where Jews no longer feel safe

By Sarah Smaïl (Bondy Blog Pour Mediapart)
Rabbi Haim Lumbroso with Pierrefitte mayor Michel Fourcade during Hanukah celebrations. © Sarah Smaïl/Bondy Blog Rabbi Haim Lumbroso with Pierrefitte mayor Michel Fourcade during Hanukah celebrations. © Sarah Smaïl/Bondy Blog

In November, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that over the first nine months of this year there had been a 69% increase in reported anti-Semitic attacks in the country compared with the same period in 2017. Some urban areas are witnessing a desertification of once significant Jewish communities, and notably in the socially deprived Paris suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis, with a relatively large Muslim population, where synagogues are closing down as increasing numbers of Jews are moving out amid religious tensions and fears of insecurity. Others, meanwhile, and notably religious and community leaders, are locally active in attempting to fight anti-Semitism through dialogue and education. Sarah Smaïl, from Mediapart’s online partner Bondy Blog, reports from Seine-Saint-Denis.

Disgraced Macron security aide has diplomatic passport

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Alexandre Benalla standing behind Emmanuel Macron when he served as the president's bodyguard. © Photo d'archives/REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer Alexandre Benalla standing behind Emmanuel Macron when he served as the president's bodyguard. © Photo d'archives/REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Alexandre Benalla, the disgraced former personal security advisor and deputy cabinet chief to President Emmanuel Macron, who was dismissed from his post this summer after it was revealed he assaulted May Day marchers in Paris while wearing police insignia, has continued to travel in possession of a French diplomatic passport and notably during recent business trips to Israel and several African countries, Mediapart has learnt. The passport, valid for four years, was delivered to him on May 24th, three weeks after the May Day events for which he is now placed by magistrates under formal investigation. Fabrice Arfi and Antton Rouget report.

Macron facing the scenario of a return to the urns

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French President Emmanuel Macron. © Reuters French President Emmanuel Macron. © Reuters

No French president or prime minister over the past 50 years has survived a political crisis like that in which Emmanuel Macron has become engulfed with the ‘gilets jaunes’ – Yellow Vest – movement, which is calling for improved living conditions for low- and middle-income earners, and increased participation of citizens in political decision making. In this analysis of the crisis, François Bonnet argues why Macron, in order to save his five-year term in office, appears to have little other choice than to return to the urns.