Fabricating terrorism in France

Recently, a leading French anti-terrorist judge has been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice. He is suspected of having voluntarily misled an inquiry of which he was in charge for political interests.This case is not isolated. It simply highlights some of the methods used to manipulate the judiciary and public opinion in order to create Muslim terrorist plots that might not exist. In effect, the very same judge has been subject to accusations as grave as cooperating with countries known for their use of torture and other manoeuvres to build up cases against alleged terrorists.

Since the beginning of the War on Terror, France has been an ally of the US post 9/11. The US administration appears to be especially impressed with the French anti-terrorist machinery at the domestic level as highlighted by American diplomats in a cable revealed by Wikileaks. The country was said to be “known for its counterterrorism forces and judiciary”.

For many years, Judge Jean-Louis Bruguičre undoubtedly led the French judicial campaign in the War on Terror. His methods were unusual not to say expeditive. Few voices would point out blatant violation of basic rights of the defence, but such voices have been left unheard. It was mainly because no major bombings occurred in France after 9/11. Many would attribute this “calmness” to the approach developed by Judge Bruguičre. In other words, the method might be a bit rough but it works.

Nevertheless, the tables seem to have turned since Judge Bruguičre has recently been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in the sensitive and complex Karachi case. At the end of 1992, France wanted Pakistan to purchase her submarines. Therefore, a system to pay local deciders was legally set up. This practice was then banned, even though payment are said to have carried on up until 2001. On 8 May 2002, a bomb attack in Karachi killed 14 people, including 11 French nationals. Judge Bruguičre was in charge of the case. He was recently interrogated by a judge on the absence of several elements in the casefile, including a report detailing the autopsy of the alleged suicide-bombers but found himself unable to explain it. It is of extreme importance since this report discredits the thesis favoured by Jean-Louis Bruguičre: a suicide bomb-attack committed by Muslims and reinforces the theory defended by the victims’ families: the attack would be an act of retaliation from Pakistanis for the cease of payment. Judge Bruguičre would have tried to protect right-wing politicians who could have benefited from the payments made in Pakistan as well as Jacques Chirac himself accused of knowing the risks engendered for the French nationals in Karachi if these payments were suspended.

Surprisingly, what is unusual here is not the alleged manipulation by an anti-terrorist judge for political reasons but the fact that this allegation is followed up. In effect, the very same judge Bruguičre has been subject to accusations as grave as cooperating with countries known for their use of torture and other manoeuvres to build up cases against alleged terrorists without creating much reaction. The examples are countless, but let’s look into what is presented as two major terrorist plot abortions in France.

The first one brings us back a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks while the nations were gathering to invade Afghanistan. Meanwhile, France was announcing the repatriation of the “self-confessed terrorist” Djamel Beghal. He was first accused of plotting an attack against the American Cultural centre. However, the target was then said to be the American embassy in Paris. The only problem is that Djamel Beghal withdrew his confessions as soon as he arrived in France, the reason being that they were not genuine but obtained under torture in the UAE. Traces of the ill-treatment described by Djamel were found during a medical examination. Of even more concern is the fact that Djamel Beghal affirms that Jean-Louis Bruguičre travelled to meet with the Emirati authorities to find out more about his case while the then French citizen was extra-judicially detained and tortured there. Similarly, the French judge also said he could facilitate the repatriation of his wife and children who were under American bombs in Afghanistan. However, Djamel had to confirm the confessions made in the Emirates. Nizar Trabelsi, allegedly complicit with Djamel Beghal, also experienced similar pressures. Hence, Judge Bruguičre would have visited him in his Belgian prison and threatened him to prevent him from seeing his wife and children if he did not accuse Djamel. The outcome of all of that: Djamel Beghal was sentenced to ten years of prison,without enough evidence, according to another top anti-terrorist judge.

Another case filled with outrageous accusations is the so-called “Chechen network” arrested in 2003-2004. One of the main figures of it was Said Arif, an Algerian national arrested in Syria in 2003. He was extra-judicially detained and tortured in Fara’ Falestin as confirmed by a medical examination. Again, Jean-Louis Bruguičre was in charge of the case and a French investigative judge travelled to Syria to submit a list of questions for Said Arif to the local intelligence. Said would be extradited to France few days after he signed forced confessions extracted in Syria. During the trial, Said’s lawyer reproached Jean-Louis Bruguičre not to have issued an arrest warrant as soon as he became aware of Said’s whereabouts instead of leaving him in the hands of the Syrian intelligence notorious for their use of torture. In the same case, Human Rights Watch revealed that the same judge travelled to Jordan requesting local authorities to ask certain questions to Abu Attiya who confessed the preparation of a terrorist attack in Europe. He was then released without charges and withdrew his statements and alleged ill-treatment. Merouane Benahmed, presented as the leader of the network affirmed that Judge Bruguičre threatened him to deport him to Algeria where he was sentenced to death in absentia. Hamid Benssalah confessed that the group was preparing an attack against the Russian embassy in France but later revealed that Judge Bruguičre visited him during his police custody. He had to confess an attack or would be sent to Russia or the US. Maamar Ouazane declared to the investigative judge that the very same group was plotting to blow up shops, police stations, the Eiffel tower and Israeli targets. During the trial, he affirmed that Judge Bruguičre offered him to be released in exchange for confessions. The judge then told his lawyer to help his client disappear to avoid a confrontation with another suspect. The lawyer did not deny the bargain. The end result: Said Arif and Merouane Benahmed were sentenced to ten years of jail and ten other persons were also condemned.

Most of this information is public and can be found in mainstream newspapers. Almost every single terrorism case in France suffers from similar defects. Lawyers denounced what they call state scandals, collusion with America, Algeria or other nations. Some even become reluctant to treat such cases simply because they find no respect for any basic rules.  Despite grave allegations sometimes supported by evidence, Judge Bruguičre as well as other anti-terror judges remained in place without having to worry too much and the accused are thrown in prison for years. Very few take a stance against this anti-terrorist machinery. Without falling into conspiracy theories, how can one not think that these accusations of terrorist plot are not simply made up? What about if these methods were not the reason for the “calmness” in France but the tool used to create fear and threats that do not exist? No crime, no evidence of the preparation of a crime, confessions obtained under torture or illegitimate pressures and not even clear accusations except a vague “conspiracy in relation with a terrorist entreprise”.Who can believe that any of the people accused in this cases would be condemned if it was a “simple crminal case”? The recent questioning of Judge Bruguičre in the Karachi case might give hope for the future. However, it seems that the sudden accountability of an anti-terrorist investigative judge is more due to the desire for discovering the truth by the new judge in charge of the case rather than to a revised approach of the anti-terror system in France. Unfortunately, nothing indicates that individuals doubtfully accused of plotting attacks would be given the same concerns.

Written by Arnaud Mafille