The mad week that was: from the 'Butler tapes' to Omar Raddad

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Last week, journalists from Mediapart and weekly news magazine Le Point stood trial on ‘invasion of privacy’ charges for having published secretly-recorded conversations that revealed corruption and profiteering by the entourage of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The prosecution has demanded they receive symbolic fines, and a verdict will be delivered in January. Meanwhile, the tax administration demanded the online press make backpayments for VAT rates that no longer apply. The week was capped by developments in a long-running murder case where the possible proof of a shameful miscarriage of justice remains buried by inertia. Hubert Huertas pulls on a common thread linking all three events.

The injustice of the VAT body blow dealt to Mediapart

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La rédaction de Mediapart en 2013. © Reuters La rédaction de Mediapart en 2013. © Reuters

Mediapart has been notified by the French tax administration that it must pay a total of 4.1 million euros in an adjustment of its VAT payments over a six-year period between 2008 and 2014. The adjustment comes after Mediapart’s long campaign, finally vindicated by a law introduced in 2014, calling for the discriminatory 20% VAT rate for the online press to be removed and aligned to the 2.1% VAT rate applied to the print-based press. Mediapart, which openly applied the lower VAT rate amid years of discussions over the issue with the administration and government, must now meet the demand for the backpayments immediately, despite an appeal procedure. Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel explains the background to what appears to be a move of vengeance, and appeals here for your support in face of the severe threat now hanging over this independent online journal.

Journalism on trial in absurd closing act of the Bettencourt saga

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Liliane Bettencourt, le 29 mars 2012 © Reuters Liliane Bettencourt, le 29 mars 2012 © Reuters

This week, five journalists, including Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel and Mediapart investigative reporter Fabrice Arfi, stand trial in Bordeaux on charges relating to the violation of personal privacy. The case centres on the publication by Mediapart in 2010 of extracts of secretly recorded conversations between L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her entourage of advisors which revealed a catalogue of corruption and manipulation surrounding the ageing billionaire and which led to the convictions of eight people earlier this year. Here, Fabrice Arfi denounces a trial that flouts press freedom laws and threatens the fundamental 'right to know'.

How brother of youth killed by 'trigger happy' French cop became a policeman

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The shooting of Lahouari Ben Mohamed, 17, during a routine check in Marseille in 1980, was one of a series of events that sparked the creation of the French anti-racist movement in 1983. Lahouari's little brother Hassan, who was only four at the time of the killing, himself went on to become a police officer, and has just published a book about what happened to his eldest brother. Based on a long investigation and in-depth interviews, this fascinating book takes its title, La Gâchette facile, from what the armed policeman said just before the shooting: “Careful, tonight I'm trigger-happy”. Louise Fessard met the author.

French political intrigue behind escape of Dominican Republic 'cocaine' pilots

L'eurodéputé FN Aymeric Chauprade et les deux pilotes. © Twitter / a_chauprade L'eurodéputé FN Aymeric Chauprade et les deux pilotes. © Twitter / a_chauprade

Revelations about the dramatic escape by two French pilots from the Dominican Republic made headlines in France this week. The two men, convicted of cocaine trafficking, fled the Caribbean country thanks to a well-organised plan while they were on house arrest pending an appeal. But the affair took on a political flavour, too, as anger rose in the Dominican Republic about the pilots' escape and amid claims that some French government agencies were involved. In particular a Euro MP and close ally of Marine Le Pen has belatedly admitted that he was directly involved in the extraction operation. Michel Deléan, Louise Fessard and Marine Turchi report.

The web activists 'debugging' France's surveillance laws

Internet activists-turned lawyers are using computer and coding skills to find errors or “bugs” lurking in France's growing array of surveillance and intelligence laws. Calling themselves “amateur scholars”, they have so far drawn up around ten legal challenges as a result of their work. As Michel Deléan and Jérôme Hourdeaux report, these 'hacktivists' are in the vanguard of numerous judicial challenges to this controversial snooping legislation.

Did going back to work kill this French pensioner?

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Despite his poor health Raymond, aged 75, felt obliged to find a job ten years after retiring because his pension was so small and he faced mounting debts. Yet he was given no medical test before he started delivering leaflets for distribution company Adrexo near Paris. Within days Raymond was dead after suffering a heart attack. His son has now taken the company to an industrial tribunal claiming it did not fulfil its legal obligations. Michaël Hajdenberg reports.