Town v country: rural French schools feel sacrificed in favour of urban areas

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A classroom in a primary school in Marseille. © Reuters A classroom in a primary school in Marseille. © Reuters

The education authorities have just made their annual announcement about which primary school classes are being closed and which are being opened in the next academic year. Teaching unions and elected representatives in rural areas fear village schools are getting fewer teaching posts so that the government can implement its flagship policy of halving class sizes in education priority zones - which are overwhelmingly in deprived urban areas. Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer rejects the claims. Mediapart's education correspondent Faïza Zerouala reports.

The dilemma for Paris over French jihadists captured in Syria and Iraq

By and
An Islamic State propaganda photo of one of its sharpshooters. © DR An Islamic State propaganda photo of one of its sharpshooters. © DR

In the wake of the military defeats of the Islamic State group in the Middle East, a total of about 100 French nationals, including jihadist fighters, women and children, are now detained in Iraq and in Kurd-controlled territory in Syria. Their situation represents a dilemma for the French government, which is tempted to leave them in the hands of their captors and their justice systems, but which is under pressure from lawyers acting for their families who argue that to do so is unlawful and inhumane. Michel Deléan and Matthieu Suc report on the debate, and hear the arguments, which include security concerns, for and against their return.

Fiasco looms for the Lyon-Turin alpine rail project

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Early construction work on the Lyon-Turin rail link tunnel. Early construction work on the Lyon-Turin rail link tunnel.

The project launched in 2001 to build a high-speed rail link between the southern French city of Lyon and the northern Italian city of Turin, via what is now to be a 57.5 kilometres-long tunnel under the Alps as its centrepiece, is facing mounting opposition from environmentalists and inhabitants of the Maurienne valley in France and the Susa valley in Italy through which the link will pass. The project for the rail link, estimated to cost a total of 26 billion euros, now faces serious legal challenges in France, amid spiralling costs and hesitations over its funding which have drawn sharp criticism from bodies that include France’s national audit court. Jade Lindgaard reports.

Paris court rules against Apple in case against 'tax evasion' protestors acting in 'general interest'

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At the end of a legal case brought by tech giant Apple against alter-globalisation organisation ATTAC, in which the tech giant sought a three-year ban on activists demonstrating in and outside its stores in France to highlight the firm’s tax-avoidance schemes, a Paris court has ruled in favour of ATTAC, describing its campaign as being in the “general interest”. Martine Orange reports.

Tariq Ramadan rape case divides France's Muslims

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Tariq Ramadan, under investigation for rape and placed in preventive detention. © Reuters Tariq Ramadan, under investigation for rape and placed in preventive detention. © Reuters

Over the past two weeks a number of Muslim figures and organisations in France, together with anti-racist militants, have become increasingly vocal in calling for the release from preventive detention of prominent Islamic intellectual, scholar and preacher Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, who was earlier this month placed under investigation for two rapes. His supporters argue that he is subject to unusually harsh treatment, that his state of health has not been properly taken into account, with some also throwing doubt on the veracity of the accounts of his alleged victims. But, as Louise Fessard reports, the support leant to Ramadan has opened deep divisions among French Muslims, with questions raised over the motivations of the campaigners.

Tax-evading former French budget minister's appeal trial wraps up

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Jérôme Cahuzac (centre) arriving in court on February 12th. © Reuters Jérôme Cahuzac (centre) arriving in court on February 12th. © Reuters

At the end of two weeks of hearings, a Paris court on Thursday deferred until May its verdict on the appeal by disgraced former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac against a three-year prison sentence handed to him in 2016 for tax fraud and money laundering. Cahuzac, 65, who Mediapart revealed in 2012 held a secret tax-haven bank account while leading a crackdown on tax fraud, did not contest his conviction, but sought a reduced sentence which would allow him to escape prison. While his lawyers argued that Cahuzac was a “broken” and “finished” man who risked taking his own life if sent behind bars, the prosecution has reiterated its demand for a three-year sentence. Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan was in court to follow the proceedings.   

The deadly roads into Calais

By Elisa Perrigueur
A sketch of a ferry terminal at Calais. © Elisa Perrigueur A sketch of a ferry terminal at Calais. © Elisa Perrigueur

Since 1999, an estimated 170 migrants desperately seeking a clandestine passage across the Channel to Britain have died in road accidents in and around the port of Calais in northern France, 37 of them since 2015. One former police officer said the situation became so grim “it was humanly impossible to pick up more bodies from the road”. One of the most recent victims was a 22-year-old Eritrean whose mutilated body was found on a motorway last month after he was run over by a truck whose driver fled the scene. Elisa Perrigueur reports from Calais, where she met with Biniam's relatives as they prepared the return of his body home to north-east Africa.

The man who lives under permanent house arrest

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Kamel Daoudi. © DR Kamel Daoudi. © DR

For ten years since serving a prison sentence for his part in a plot to attack the US embassy in Paris, Kamel Daoudi has lived under house arrest in France, the longest anyone has been subjected to in the country. Despite his apparent renunciation of his jihadist past, he must report to the police four times per day, every day, and abide by a night-time curfew. He has been ordered to move home on five occasions, and the last has separated him from his wife and three children. New legislation now allows for the restrictive sentence to continue indefinitely, prompting Daoudi to go on hunger strike earlier this month. Michel Deléan reports.

The homage France owes to Spanish Republican refugees

By Nicolas Lebourg
Spanish refugees arriving across the French border in the village of Le Perthus, February 1939. © David Seymour. Musée national de l'histoire et des cultures de l'immigration Spanish refugees arriving across the French border in the village of Le Perthus, February 1939. © David Seymour. Musée national de l'histoire et des cultures de l'immigration

A move to include the 150th anniversary of the birth of the notorious French anti-Semitic and far-right author Charles Maurras in official ceremonies across France this year caused such an outcry that it was struck off the agenda, calling into question the criteria employed by the country’s learned national commemorations committee. Amid the farce over Maurras, historian and Mediapart contributor Nicolas Lebourg argues here that a truly worthy commemoration sorely missing from the official calendar is that of the plight, and unsung contribution to France, of the hundreds of thousands of Spanish Civil War refugees who, in the runup to World War II, crossed into the country seeking refuge from the Franco regime.

Apple turns red over tax protests at its French stores

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In an extraordinary move, American tech giant Apple this week applied before a Paris court for a three-year ban to be imposed on alter-globalisation group ATTAC from continuing with its recent demonstrations at the company’s stores in France in a campaign to denounce its tax-dodging practices. Mediapart economics and business correspondent Martine Orange was in court to follow the hearing which, she reports here, has above all served to further tarnish the iPhone maker's image.

Why foundation at heart of French global cultural network is close to collapse

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Then foreign minister Laurent Fabius during a Foundation symposium in 2015. © Fondation Alliance Française Then foreign minister Laurent Fabius during a Foundation symposium in 2015. © Fondation Alliance Française

The future of the Fondation Alliance Française, regarded as the shop window for French cultural diplomacy, is at risk. A confidential report carried out by inspectors from three government ministries – and seen by Mediapart – slams the way the foundation has been managed. Its president Jérôme Clément, who is close to former foreign minister Laurent Fabius, has resigned. And five directors, including former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppé, have also quit. Antton Rouget reports.

Abusers of women online are 'getting away with it' in France

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An official body in charge of overseeing sexual equality in France has criticised the way that many people are harassing women online “with impunity”. This is despite the many laws that are available to combat such harassment. The Haut Conseil à l’Égalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes (HCE) points to a trial it carried out in 2017 in which less than 8% of sexist content flagged to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was taken down. Louise Fessard reports.

Secret services fear Islamic State 'travel agency' could return jihadists to France

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A jihadist in a tunnel underneath the former Islamic State-held city of Mosul. A jihadist in a tunnel underneath the former Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

The Islamic State terrorist organisation has been quietly preparing for the loss of its self-styled Caliphate for several months. France's security services now fear that its fighters might be moved to other areas of jihadist conflict or into Europe. In particular they have have raised concerns over the role of the terrorist's mysterious 'Emigration and Logistics Committee' based in Turkey, the Lebanon and Jordan, amid fears it may be used to send French and other European jihadists back to their country of origin. Matthieu Suc reports.

How Calais migrant crisis has worsened since Macron's visit

By Elisa Perrigueur
Migrants living rough in Calais, February 2nd, 2018. © Elisa Perrigueur Migrants living rough in Calais, February 2nd, 2018. © Elisa Perrigueur

A recent battle between groups of migrants in Calais left 21 people injured, including five with gunshot wounds. Four were left in a critical condition. Local voluntary groups on the ground say that the situation in the Channel port town has got worse in recent weeks, notably after a visit by President Emmanuel Macron and because of a policy of not allowing any new migrant camps to spring up. Elisa Perrigueur reports from Calais.

Fears that 'dangerous' official decree paves way for concreting of French regions

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The French authorities have quietly issued a decree to state officials in some regions that allows them to depart from the normal rules when it comes to projects concerned with the environment, farmland, forests, local development projects and urban policy. The rules are being relaxed as part of an experiment to give decision makers in certain regions greater flexibility. But lawyers representing environmental groups say the move could open the way to more projects that cause pollution and are harmful for the environment. One has called the decree 'absurd and dangerous'. Jade Lindgaard reports.