UN and French rights commission condemn state of emergency 'abuses'

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French President François Hollande on Wednesday told French parliament leaders that he will seek a third extension of state of emergency powers introduced immediately after the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead. The announcement followed two separate and fiercely critical reports published this week, one by the government’s own official consultative committee on human rights which denounced "abuses" and the "devastating damage" of the special powers the government has granted itself, and another by a panel of United Nations rights experts who said the measure had created “excessive and disproportionate restrictions”. Jérôme Hourdeaux reports.

Staff unions stall France's Sunday trading reform

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Laws restricting Sunday trading in France were freed up in a package of liberal economic measures introduced last July by economy minister Emmanuel Macron. The so-called ‘Macron law’ allows stores in designated zones in Paris and a handful of other towns and cities to open every Sunday and to lengthen late-opening hours, on condition that agreement is found with staff. But, as Mathilde Goanec reports, fierce union resistance to the extended trading is stalling any widespread implementation of the controversial new law.

Paris prosecutor admits SocGen 'entirely manipulated' case against trader Kerviel

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Jérôme Kerviel. © Reuters Jérôme Kerviel. © Reuters

New and compelling evidence has emerged to suggest that the conviction of the Société Générale’s so-called ‘rogue trader’ Jérôme Kerviel, who was jailed for his actions that were estimated to have cost the bank 4.9 billion euros, is unsound and was reached after a botched and biased investigation steered by the bank, Mediapart can reveal. The latter claimed that Kerviel’s superiors knew nothing of his reckless trades. But in a secretly-taped conversation, a senior magistrate with the Paris public prosecutor’s office involved in the case says the police officer in charge of the investigation was “entirely manipulated” by the bank, and that it was “obvious” that “the Société Générale knew” what its trader was doing. Martine Orange reports.

The shameful container camp for Calais migrants

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The container camp in Calais. © Reuters The container camp in Calais. © Reuters

Most of the estimated 6,000 migrants gathered in the French port of Calais in the hope of crossing the Channel to Britain live in dire conditions in a sprawling makeshift camp commonly called 'the Jungle'. As part of a longterm plan to raze the makeshift shacks and tents, the authorities have begun evacuating part of the site to build a camp with living quarters made out of containers that have no water or cooking facilities. Many migrants are refusing to move in to what resembles a prison, surrounded by fencing, watched over by video surveillance cameras, access to which is controlled by biometric readers. In this opinion article, singer and songwriter La Parisienne Libérée, who regularly commentates on current affairs for Mediapart in music and images, denounces a "shameful" project that has cost 20 million euros of public money.

François Mitterrand and the gangrene of power

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This month marked the 20th anniversary of the death, on January 8th 1996 at the age of 79, of François Mitterrand, the first socialist president to be elected under France’s Fifth Republic. He served two successive terms in office from 1981 until 1995, during which time current president, François Hollande, and other leading Socialist Party figures received their political schooling. Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel takes stock of Mitterrand’s legacy of which, he argues here, the socialists now in power have retained only the dark side.

Former Qatari ruler's firm targeted by French 'money laundering' investigation

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Former ruler of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. © Reuters Former ruler of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. © Reuters

The Paris public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into a suspected money laundering operation involving Qatari Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s French investment arm, French Properties Management (FPM), Mediapart can reveal. The probe, prompted by information from a whistleblowing former employee of FPM, is the latest to target the activities of the Paris-based firm, which is also cited in two other separate judicial investigations in France for “misuse of company assets” and “corruption and influence peddling”. Yann Philippin reports.

French foreign minister's intriguing tax favour for film director Luc Besson

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French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius. © Reuters French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius. © Reuters

An unauthorised biography of Luc Besson to be published in France on Wednesday recounts that the renowned French film director and producer was granted an extraordinary exemption from a multi-million-euro wealth tax payment when current French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was finance minister. The exemption, claims the book, was agreed after the intervention of Fabius, whose sister and nephew were employed by Besson. Fabrice Arfi reports.

Bettencourt 'butler tapes' ruling strikes victory for press freedom and right to know

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In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, five journalists from Mediapart and French weekly news magazine Le Point, together with the former butler of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, were cleared of invasion of privacy charges relating to the publication of the contents of secretly-recorded conversations between the billionaire and her close entourage of legal and financial advisors. The publication of the contents of the tapes, which lifted the lid on a web of corruption and manipulation, contributed to “debates of public and societal interest” and “without entering into elements of private life and family conflicts”, concluded the magistrates in Bordeaux following the trial of the six defendants last November. The full text of their ruling is presented in this report by Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan.

Farmers face eviction to make way for new French airport

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At the end of 2015 the giant construction firm, Vinci, who are scheduled to build a new airport near Nantes in the west of France, sought an emergency court order to expel small-scale farmers who live and work on the planned site. The farmers, some of whose families have been on the same land for generations, are refusing to go. On Saturday January 9th opponents of the deeply controversial airport project staged a demonstration in support of the local farming community threatened with expulsion. Jade Lindgaard reports.

Saga of an ex-French minister and casino firm family shares

By Antton Rouget
Michèle Alliot-Marie at the National Assembly on March 30th, 2011. © Reuters Michèle Alliot-Marie at the National Assembly on March 30th, 2011. © Reuters

In 2011 Nicolas Sarkozy's then foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie was forced to quit after details emerged in the midst of the Arab Spring uprising of her ties with Tunisian leader Ben Ali. Now Mediapart can reveal details of a new affair involving the right-wing politician relating to when she was interior minister under the same administration. According to documents seen by Mediapart, during her time in office Alliot-Marie backed a series of measures favourable to the casino industry in France – at the same time as her family was buying shares in casino-owning companies. Antton Rouget reports.

French MPs ponder return of 'national unworthiness' crime

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President François Hollande's socialist government has been at the centre of a political controversy since it announced that convicted dual-national terrorists would be stripped of French nationality. Many of its own supporters on the Left, including senior figures, are bitterly opposed to the idea. Now, as an alternative, some party MPs are suggesting a revival of the old offence of “national unworthiness”, which would entail the citizen concerned losing their civil rights and status, and which was last used at the end of World War II. Mathieu Magnaudeix explains.

French oil firm's polluting presence in Peruvian Amazon

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The French oil company Maurel & Prom has come under fire from French and local non-governmental organisations after it abruptly left a drilling platform in the Peruvian Amazon that was no longer deemed economically viable following the fall in world oil prices. In particular it has been accused of leaving behind environmental problems and of playing down the risks of pollution to local communities. Meanwhile the French Parliament has been considering a law that would force multinationals to operate a “vigilance plan” to avoid environmental and other problems in the future. Karl Laske reports.

Removing French nationality: the slippery slope

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Prime minister Manuel Valls presented the reform on December 23rd, 2015. © Reuters Prime minister Manuel Valls presented the reform on December 23rd, 2015. © Reuters

President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls are forging ahead with plans to strip French nationality from anyone with dual nationality who commits terrorist acts against the country. This is despite strong opposition from many on the Left, including senior figures in the ruling Socialist Party. Here Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues that in following this path the socialist government is removing traditional political and historical reference points from its supporters. In particular, he says, the authorities have forgotten the warnings set out in philosopher Hannah Arendt's masterpiece 'The Origins of Totalitarianism'.

Fifty years on: role of French Algerians in domestic politics

Mounument to the Pieds-Noirs on the promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Hélène Staes Mounument to the Pieds-Noirs on the promenade des Anglais in Nice. © Hélène Staes

Following Algeria's independence from France in 1962 around 800,000 Algerians of French descent, known as 'Pieds-Noirs', resettled in mainland France, many of them in the south of the country. It has long been assumed that the presence of so many of these repatriated settlers was a major factor in the political rise of the far-right Front National in the Mediterranean region of France. But as Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports, the supposed influence of this ageing group of voters may largely be a myth.

French Muslims who swap 'heathen' France for Egypt

By Adama Sissoko
One of the French Muslim families who have moved to Cairo. © Adama Sissoko One of the French Muslim families who have moved to Cairo. © Adama Sissoko

They are French, Muslim and living in Egypt. Several hundred Salafists from France have chosen to live in this “Islamic land” because they no longer wish to stay in their country of origin, a “land of disbelievers” or heathens where they feel it has become impossible to practice their religion as they wish. They are not jihadists and have come to Egypt in search of their Islamic identity. Yet for many this is proving harder than they thought. Adama Sissoko reports.