Today the Paris sentencing court ruled in favour of Jean-Marc Rouillan’s request for “restricted freedom”. This qas quickly followed by news that the State was appealing this decision; the courts will rule within the next two months, but in the meantime Rouillan remains in prison. Nevertheless, this is a step forward…
Along with Georges Cipriani (who remains in prison), Nathalie Ménigon (who was granted restricted freedom a month ago) and Joëlle Aubron (who died of cancer in 2006), Rouillan was captured by French anti-terrorist police on February 21st 1987. The four, who had all conducted armed attacks as members of the communist guerilla group Action Directe, subsequently received double life sentences each, with no possibility of release for eighteen years. In prison they were often subjected to severe isolation, conditions crafted to induce psychological stress and traume; in the case of Ménigon these conditions led directly to a suicide attempt.
The Ne Laissons Pas Faire! Collective, a support group for the Action Directe prisoners, issued this short press release today:
Action Directe: Jean-Marc Rouillan Granted “Restricted Freedom”
The “Ne laissons pas faire!” collective notes the court’s decision to grant “restricted freedom” to Jean-Marc Rouillan, a member of Action Directe who has been in prison for over twenty years. Under the anti-terrorist legislation [in France] this is the preliminary stage before one can be granted conditional release.
As with Nathalie Ménigon, this restricted freedom is still a form of semi-incarceration, and comes with a number of exceptional restrictions.
It would make no sense if Georges Cipriani did not now also receive restricted liberty.
Amongst the prisoners involved in this case, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, an Arab communist militant who has been in prison since 1984 and eligible for release since 1999, is awaiting a ruling on his seventh application for conditional release on October 10th.
For our comrades’ freedom, the struggle continues!
« Ne laissons pas faire ! » Collective
September 26th 2007
Action Directe was a communist guerilla organization which carried out a number of attacks in the 1970s and 80s, and at one point attempted to build a west european guerilla front with the West German Red Army Faction. Nevertheless, according to newspaper reports accompanying Rouillan’s release, the former guerilla no longer sees a place for such actions, having told the court that “armed struggle is no longer on the agenda; anybody would consider the idea ridiculous today.”
Over the past twenty years Rouillan has remained politically active behind bars. As the Journal Chretien notes:
In prison, Rouillan distinguished himself by his determination: he supported his comrades in Action Directe, he went on hunger strike, and he continued to write… his most recently published book, Lettres à Jules, a series of open letters to Jules Bonnot, the head of the Bonnot Gang of illegal militants who attacked several banks at the beginning of the 20th century, “expropriating” funds for the “anarchist cause.” Lettres à Jules was published by Agone, along with Les voyages des enfants de l’extérieur, Rouillan’s memoirs of his days in Spain, and Chroniques carcérales, a series of texts describing prison conditions in France. He is a regular contributor to the CQFD monthly publication.
JEAN-MARC ROUILLAN was sixteen years old in 1968. From a left-wing family, he was nevertheless not very political. He has suggested that this might be what enabled him to engage in the revolt against totalitarianism with no hesitation. He was active with the CAL (Comité d’action Lycéen – Student Action Committee) in events in the neighborhoods north of Toulouse. He then joined the anarcho-communist movement, notably the Autonomous Libertarian Groups (translater’s note: Groupes Autonomes Libertaires – it is important to note that in Europe the word “libertarian” is not associated solely with anarcho-capitalism as in the United States, but also with left-wing anarchism and anti-authoritarianism).
These months were a time of intense learning where direct action was a common occurence in the many struggles within the revitalized revolutionary movement. Occupation committees in the factories, rent strikes in the cities, struggle against the police state…
Given that the city was rightly considered the capital of antifrancoist Spain, he then became involved in support work for the revolutionary struggle against Franco’s dictatorship. In 1970 he was a member of the first nucleus of the Movimente Iberico de Liberacion (MIL), the armed organization of the Barcelona (Catalunya) underground workers movement.
The MIL acquired funds for the solidarity chests and lent its political and technical support to the self-organized groups and the different fighting assemblies that were growing on the ground. It functioned as a network of anti-fascist resistance (the GACs, Groupes Autonomes de Combat – Autonomous Fighting Groups) but it also developed an anti-capitalist praxis tailored to this period: political autonomy for the working class, radical critique and anti-revisionism, against all collaboration with the “democratic” forces that only wanted to shepherd Francoism into a new authoritarian bourgeois regime. The MIL-GAC was destroyed by fierce repression. One of its members, Salvador Puig Antich, was the last political prisoner to be sentenced to death by garrotting (March 2nd 1974). Back in France, Jean-Marc worked to bring together many libertarian and autonomist groups willing to carry out international armed struggle against the dictatorship. Out of this came the GARI (Groupes d’Action Revolutionnaire Internationalistes – Internationalist Revolutionary Armed Groups) which were active at this time in many European countries. Jean-Marc was arrested in 1974, but when Franco died he was amnestied and released in Spring 1977.
He then started working to bring together the post-May ‘68 autonomist movement with the new expressions of autonomous working class struggle that came out of ’68 and the battles of the late seventies, and which found most of their inspiration in the various Italian theses. He worked to set up underground groups like the Coordinations Autonomes (trans: Autonomous Coordinations) and to generalize actions and resistance. The fruit of this labor was Action Directe, born in early 1978.
Regarding todays events, and Rouillan’s prospects in the immediate future. one can also read the following article from the AFP press service:
PARIS (AFP) — After Nathalie Ménigon this summer, on Wednesday the Paris sentencing court granted restricted freedom to Jean-Marc Rouillan, a former member of Action Directe, a far left armed organization. The parquet court is appealing this decision.
During the September 4th hearing the Paris parquet had requested that Rouillan remain incarcerated. This afternoon it confirmed that it would be appealing the sentencing court’s decision, which effectively suspends the restricted freedom decision.
According to his lawyer Jean-Louis Chalanset, Jean-Marc Rouillan, who has been in prison for twenty years after having received two life sentences, will have his request examined “within two months” by the Paris sentencing appeals court.
The co-founder of Action Directe was supposed to be transferred on October 22nd from Lannemezan (in the Upper Pyrenees) to a halfway house in Marseille, where he has a job waiting for him at a publishing house. This however has been put on hold by the parquet’s appeal.
As in the case of Nathalie Ménigon, another former member of Action Directe who has been in restricted freedom since August in the Toulouse area, Rouillan’s new conditions will allow him to work during the day though he will have to return to prison at night.
According to Mr Chalanset, the sentencing court’s ruling was the result of “the serious efforts at social rehabilitation” of the Action Directe co-founder, whose “behaviour in prison has evolved satisfactorily.”
The court has found that “Armed struggle no longer seems to figure in his idea of political action,” according to his lawyer.
Along with three other members of Action Directe – including Ms Ménigon, whom he married in 1999 in the Fleury-Mérogis prison – Mr Rouillan received a double life sentence for a variety fo crimes, including the assassinations of the Renault CEO Georges Besse and the arms engineer René Audran in the 1980s.
In 2005, after having finished the 18 years of his sentence for which there was no possibility of release, Rouillan filed an initial request for conditional release. It was rejected by the sentencing court, and then by the Pau appeals court in February 2006.
According to Alain Pojolat, of the “Ne Laissons Pas Faire” collective which supports former members of Action Directe, this time “the court was able to resist the pressure from the parquet”.
He nevertheless remained cautious, and worried that the conditions of restricted freedom might be “very restrictive.”
In the framework of restricted freedom, Rouillan “must not give any interviews or publish any documents relating to the acts for which he was condemned,” according to Mr Chalanset. “He must also hand over 30% of his salary in restitution to his victims and the public purse.”
At the Agone publishing house in Marseille, the possibility that Rouillan will be able to start working as an editor “in charge of preparing copy” was welcomed “with much emotion,” according to Thierry Discepolo, the head of the publishing house. “We are already getting ready,” he told AFP.
After Ménigon and Rouillan, “It would make no sense if Georges Cipriani did not now also receive restricted liberty,” according to a press release from the Ne Laissons Pas Faire collective. According to Mr Pojolat, Cipriani is currently incarcerated in Entsisheim (Upper Rhine) and is supposed to file his request for restricted freedom in November.