For the first time in a dozen years France's antiterrorist authorities are investigating an alleged terrorist plot by an 'ultra Left' group. In December nine people were arrested at various locations around France. Seven of them were subsequently placed under formal investigation on suspicion of plotting “violent action” against the forces of law and order. Five of them have been held in custody since then. Mediapart's Camille Polloni has spoken to the families and friends of some of those arrested about what they have gone through. Inevitably this new case brings with it reminders of the long-running 'Tarnac affair' in which after a decade of investigations and legal proceedings a group of left-wing activists accused of terrorist acts against French railway lines eventually saw all those charges dismissed.
The apparent suicide by hanging of a 48-year-old man found in his cell on August 7th at the Fleury-Mérogis prison south of Paris, the largest in Europe, brought the number of inmates reported to have taken their own lives there since the start of the year to 11 – more than the total number of suicides in the prison over the previous two years. The alarming figure highlights the recurrent problem of suicides among France’s prison population, which are proportionally around six times more than among the general population according to prisoner rights associations which denounce the reluctance of successive governments to effectively tackle the problem.
An open-ended strike by French prison guards over pay and conditions, prompted by a series of assaults on staff in several jails across the country, will enter a second week on Monday, with unions calling for a ‘total blockage’ of establishments after government proposals to increase staff numbers were rejected at the weekend.