More arrests as Bastille Day killer's true motive remains uncertain

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel's residency permit. © DR Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel's residency permit. © DR

Three new arrests were made on Sunday as French investigators attempt to establish whether Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian who drove a heavy truck into Bastille Day crowds in Nice on Thursday, killing 84 people, received help from accomplices in preparing the massacre. Fresh evidence emerged this weekend suggesting he had carefully planned the attack, including CCTV footage of him reconnoitring the scene earlier last week. But despite a claim by the Islamic State group that Bouhlel was a "soldier" for the jihadist group, his motive remained unclear. Meanwhile, French health minister Marisol Touraine said on Sunday that “about 85 people” were still hospitalised after the carnage on July 14th, of which 18, including a child, were in a life-threatening condition. Graham Tearse reports.

Bastille Day massacre stokes Nice's bitter divisions

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July 18th: tributes to the Bastille Day attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Reuters July 18th: tributes to the Bastille Day attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Reuters

The Bastille Day attack in Nice, when a Tunisian immigrant from the city drove a truck into crowds walking the seafront Promenade des Anglais, killing 84 people, has heightened the already prevalent racial and social tensions in the Riviera capital. Ellen Salvi reports from Nice, where local politicians have long fuelled the fires of division that threaten to engulf the city.

Nice toll rises to 84 dead, 202 injured, as France declares three days of mourning

French public prosecutor François Molins confirmed late Friday that 84 people, including ten children and teenagers, were killed when a man drove a 19-tonne truck into seafront crowds attending a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations in the Riviera city of Nice on Thursday evening. The truck attack was carried out by a lone perpetrator, 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian national who had been living in Nice for several years. Molins said a total of 202 people were injured in the attack, and 52 of them were on Friday in a critical condition. The attack is the subject of an investigation into three counts of terrorist acts, while doubts emerged late Friday over the true motive for the attack. Graham Tearse reports.

At least 80 people feared dead in Nice Bastille Day attack

Bodies of victims on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Reuters Bodies of victims on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Reuters

French officials say at least 80 people  died after a heavy truck drove into crowds attending a traditional Bastille Day fireworks celebration in the Riviera city of Nice at around 10.30 p.m. local time. The driver of the truck, who was reportedly later shot dead by police, then began firing shots into the crowd according to several media reports. Local media said the driver was a 31-year-old Nice resident of joint French-Tunisian nationality. French President François Hollande announced in the early hours of Friday that the state of emergency powers introduced after the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris last year, and due to end later this month, will be extended for a further three months. Graham Tearse reports.

Bold Paris anti-pollution plan clouded by social divisions

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Pollution cloud over Paris, March 2015. © Reuters Pollution cloud over Paris, March 2015. © Reuters

Every year in France, atmospheric pollution causes the deaths of an estimated 48,000 people and annually costs the country’s economy more than 100 billion euros. The authorities in Paris, where pollution has reached record peaks in recent years, this month introduced a programme to restrict access to the capital by most-polluting vehicles and incentives for inhabitants to give up ownership of cars. But, as Laurent Geslin reports, the plan has been attacked as discriminating for lower-income groups of the population amid wide disagreement between government, city authorities and political parties on how to tackle a growing health crisis.

Controversy over new compensation criteria for Polynesian victims of French nuclear tests

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Fifty years ago this month, France began carrying out tests of its nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean territory of French Polynesia. These were the first of what would become decades of atmospheric and underground nuclear explosions in total disregard for the health of the local population and environment. After years of campaigning, victims of the fallout earlier this month obtained a revision of the rigorous criteria governing financial compensation paid to those who have developed serious illnesses following the tests, and which in effect bars most from receiving any indemnity. But, as Julien Sartre reports, the move has been slammed by victims’ rights associations as simply tinkering at the edges of a shameful legal refusal to recognise the lethal damage caused by the tests.     

Mafiosi dubbed 'Little Spider' arrested on French Riviera

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Photo from Giovanni Tagliamento's now-closed Facebook account. © DR Photo from Giovanni Tagliamento's now-closed Facebook account. © DR

Giovanni Tagliamento has lived for the past eleven years on the French Riviera, where he is considered by the Italian justice authorities to represent the Neapolitan Mafia the Camorra in their French operations. Last month he was arrested by French police on suspicion of the illegal trafficking of spirits, and placed in preventive custody. Hélène Constanty reports on a man nicknamed the 'Little Spider’.

How France lobbied EU to toughen anti-terror laws

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The European Parliament. © Reuters The European Parliament. © Reuters

The influential Civil Liberties committee of MPs at the European Parliament has just agreed on a draft counter-terrorism directive for the European Union. Mediapart can reveal that the content of the text has been considerably influenced by Paris, which has been keen to include measures already adopted in France in recent years. These include a new crime of glorifying or praising terrorism, blocking access to websites and boosting the number of surveillance tools. Jérôme Hourdeaux reports.

Top French law school accused of psychological bullying

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France's most prestigious law school is being taken to court for the psychological harassment of four employees it is firing. The plaintiffs allege mistreatment leading to burn-out, illness and even depression by a haughty, dictatorial management. On top of that, students unhappy with poor quality teaching, last-minute cancellation of courses and exams and inadequate training are saying their fees should be reimbursed. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan explains how such an elite institution could reach this situation.

Billionaire Dassault on trial over hidden offshore cash

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Serge Dassault, the head of the aviation and defence group that bears his name, a right-wing senator and France's sixth richest person, is accused of laundering the proceeds of tax fraud and of hiding part of his wealth from Parliamentary authorities. The trial, which started on Monday July 4th, focuses on cash hidden in offshore accounts which was allegedly later used to buy votes in the town near Paris where Dassault was mayor. As Yann Philippin reports, the origins of some of these accounts goes back to the days of Serge Dassault's father Marcel, who founded the aviation group.

Study shows 'unprecedented' rise in poverty in France

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In its latest study on household income and capital, France's statistical agency INSEE notes that the median standard of living in France fell by 1.1% between 2008 and 2013, a drop not seen since records began in 1996. For the 10% worst-off families the fall was even greater, with their income falling by 3.5%. The agency writes of an “unprecedented worsening of poverty in France”. Laurent Mauduit reports.

Questions grow over SocGen's 2.2 billion euro tax rebate in Kerviel affair

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Part of a key report on the Kerviel affair that was ignored then shredded. Part of a key report on the Kerviel affair that was ignored then shredded.

Was Société Générale's determination to hold on to a 2.2-billion-euro tax rebate partly behind the French bank's motivation to pursue its “rogue trader” Jérôme Kerviel with such zeal? That is a question raised by a report written for French prosecutors in May 2008 and now seen by Mediapart and other French media as part of a joint investigation. As Martine Orange reports, it appears this important report was first ignored by the judicial authorities and then shredded.

The duty to protest

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Last week the French authorities banned a planned march in Paris by trade unions opposed to labour law reforms, before eventually backing down partially and allowing a more limited demonstration. Here Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues that demonstrating is a constitutional right and that, by banning the march that the trade unions wanted, the government violated the fundamental law that guarantees all our freedoms. It is, he writes, our duty to resist this unlawful act in order to defend our common ideal: democracy.

French Right flirts with own version of EU referendum

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Marine Le Pen, the head of France's far-right Front National has predictably welcomed Britain's vote to leave the European Union and has promised the French people a similar 'in-out' referendum if she is elected president. However, the idea of holding some form of referendum is also now gaining ground among presidential hopefuls on the mainstream Right, even if they are unwilling to give voters a straight choice between staying in or leaving the institution that France helped found. Aurélie Delmas reports on how the French Right is now extolling the virtues of national sovereignty in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Why local airport referendum matters for all of France

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Voting in the airport referendum in western France. © Yann Levy Voting in the airport referendum in western France. © Yann Levy

While all of Europe, including France, has been focussed on the shock result of the Brexit vote, a more local referendum campaign has been taking place in western France. On Sunday June 26th nearly a million voters in the Loire-Atlantique département or county were asked for their verdict on plans for a new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes. The referendum itself, whose outcome the government says it will respect and which has been criticised for its many shortcomings, was won by suporters of the scheme. But Mediapart's environment correspondent Jade Lindgaard argues that the issues at stake go beyond the local airport project: and that they affect everyone in France and beyond.