Good news today from France – it seems that Nathalie Ménigon of Action Directe is to be transfered out of the Bapaume Detention Center to another prison, from where she will be allowed out to go to work on week days. Here is the bulletin from the Ne Laissons Pas Faire! collective which has been struggling for freedom for the AD prisoners for some years now:
Nathalie Ménigon: Restricted Liberty as of August 2nd
Today, July 19th, the Paris appeals court’s sentencing board ruled that Nathalie Ménigon, an Action Directe militant, can benefit from a change of her conditions of imprisonment. She is set to be leave the Bapaume detention center on August 2nd.
So the court has finally granted Nathalie a degree of restricted liberty, more than two years after the end of her security sentence. There is nothing compassionate about this decision though, as this restricted liberty, “which could lead to the possibility of conditional release”, comes with very restrictive conditions for Nathalie:
- She will be transferred to a prison close to her workplace and, from Monday to Friday, every evening she must return to her cell. If she is late, she will be considered to have escaped. She will be incarcerated on weekends, except when permission to leave might be granted on a case by case basis.
- She is absolutely forbidden from making any public statements (verbally, in newspapers or in books), a condition which in fact prevents her from doing what she has been free to do so far, specifically in regards to speaking out in support of her imprisoned comrades
The “Ne Laissons Par Faire!” Collective is satisfied with today’s decision. It is important to point out that the Action Directe militants carried out their fight together, they were sentenced together and that they all suffered years of the same particularly harsh prison conditions. For over twenty years they collectively resisted the State’s efforts to destroy them or bribe them to renounce their beliefs. So far the courts have never wanted to separate their cases, and they were sentenced together. The restricted liberty should thus be applied to each of them equally, the next opportunity to do so being for Jean-Marc Rouillan in mid-September.
“Ne laissons pas faire !” Collective
July 19th 2007
To contextualize: Action Directe grew out of the French autonomist scene, drawing inspiration from both the struggles of the Third World proletariat and the intellectual legacy of the new communist currents of the 1960s and 70s. It carried out a number of spectacular attacks between 1979 and 1987 (for a complete chronology see the new urban guerilla website).
On February 21st 1987 the four remaining members AD, Jean-Marc Rouillan, Nathalie Ménigon, Joëlle Aubron, and Georges Cipriani, were captured at a farm in Vitry-aux-Loges by France’s anti-terrorist GIGN police. They were each sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for eighteen years.
This release is a bitter and timid “victory”, for as detailed above Nathalie is not free, and in fact is less free new to express herself than she was at Bapaume. Nevertheless, it is an important step forward, especially for human reasons, as the years of isolation-torture that the AD militants were subjected to took a particularly brutal toll on Nathalie. Suffering from severe depression, she has twice attempted suicide, and has been partially paralyzed for years as a result.
Nevertheless, despite the ravages of twenty years of incarceration, she has remained defiant and held fast to her political opposition to capitalism and the State.
What follows is an except from the Short Collective Biography of Action Directe Prisoners, fuond in the pamphlet Three Essays by Action Directe Comrades published and distributed by Kersplebedeb:
NATHALIE MENIGON was born in 1957 in a working class family. In 1975 she began working at a bank, joined the CFDT trade union after a strike. She was then kicked out of the union and joined the autonomous communist group “Camarades” (trans: Comrades). Like the Italian group Autonomia Operaia (trans: Workers Autonomy), “Camarades” called for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist social revolt and lent its support to the Italian guerilla movement. Nathalie took part in discussions and demonstrations in the Paris autonomist scene, and at the same time contemplated the necessity of armed combat.
In 1978 she and several comrades, including Jean-Marc, founded the revolutionary communist organization Action Directe. It was about concretely fighting the system and promoting the organization of the working class and its strategy: armed struggle. Both she and Jean-Marc participated in the first action claimed by the group: the machine gunning of the French chamber of commerce on May 1st 1979.
AD launched its first campaign of armed propaganda in Fall 1979. It would last until 1980. From the very beginning AD attacked those places where the State’s most important policies were thought out, decided upon and put into practice. AD chose its targets based on those questions that it described as being decisive at this stage (restructuring of the factories and neighbourhoods; military intervention in Tunisia, Chad and Zaire). More globally, AD was throwing down the red line that it intended to defend to the end: unity of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles. As an example of this unity AD also attacked those involved in the exploitation of immigrant workers, responsible for the conditions they lived in and against which they were struggling.
Nathalie and Jean-Marc were arrested in September 1980 following a firefight with the police. After the election of Mitterand (1981) and the first social democratic government, a political battle erupted in the prisons. Solidarity movements were formed calling for an amnesty of political prisoners and for an end to the special courts. The massive mobilisation and the contradictions among the new powers led to the release of all communist and anarchist prisoners and the abolition of State Security Court. Jean-Marc was freed in August 1981, Nathalie in September.
Action Directe took action again in November and December of that year. It participated in the occupation of sweatshops in Sentier and buildings in Barbès. Over a hundred mainly Turkish foreign families were thus rehoused. At the same time this campaign was accompanied by several actions and demonstrations against sweatshops and for housing. It was also a matter of supporting Turkish comrades who had fled to France after the US-supported coup d’état in their country in 1980. The reconstruction of underground structures continued on at the same time.
In June 1982 AD led an important mobilization against the G-7 Summit in Versailles. It was a decisive step towards the integration of the imperialist countries along the lines elaborated by the Reagan administration.
On the last day of the Summit, June 6th, Israel attacked Lebanon. One of the lines of imperialist redeployment was thus illustrated in the most concrete way possible. There followed the invasion of Lebanon by Israeli troops, with all that followed for the Lebanese and Palestinian people. This led to AD reorienting itself towards new targets, claiming responsibility for the machinegunning of the car of the Israeli embassy’s chief of security and a number of actions against Israeli companies. After a massacre-attack against a Jewish restaurant (Goldenberg) on Rosiers street in Paris, the powers that be orchestrated a counter-revolutionary propaganda campaign throughout the media. In an interview with the newspaper Libération, Jean-Marc defended the machinegunning of the chief of security and condemned the massacre attacks. At the same time as the Council of Ministers tried to isolate the organization’s militants by ordering the dissolution of Action Directe, a series of raids were carried out against squats and known revolutionaries. Nathalie was still recovering from a serious car accident that had taken place when she was bringing posters against the G-7 Summit back from Brussels. Nevertheless, both she and Jean-Marc went underground.
It should be mentioned, in closing, that the State in its utter depravity is appealing today’s decision.