Jean-Marc Rouillan, one of the founding members of Action Directe in the 1980s, was sentenced to eight months of house arrest two years ago for “apology of terrorism”. This is after having spent half his life in prison (from 1987 to 2012). Since July 2020, he has been wearing an electronic ankle bracelet that allows him to leave the house for a few hours a day. Because the cuff was damaged – which he did not realize – the prosecutor in charge wants to send him back to jail for the last two to three months remaining from his sentence. Rouillan has a compromised immune system, and the danger of Covid infection is very high for him in a closed institution. Numerous figures from political, cultural, media, trade union and academic circles, including Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar and Carmen Castillo, have signed a petition demanding that the court, which is meeting on Wednesday, not send Rouillan back to prison.
His conviction for “apology of terrorism” stems from a slip of the tongue when in a 2016 interview Rouillan used the word “courage” to describe confused youths from the urban banlieues who were among the Paris assassins. In the same interview, however, he also dissociated himself from them, and he made it clear once again in court that he had expressed himself badly and would certainly never justify terror of the sort carried out by Al-Qaeda or the “Islamic State”. But the court followed the gigantic smear campaign against Rouillan in the French media – a campaign that has since led to numerous convictions for “apology of terrorism” against critical journalists and left-wing activists.
Rouillan, who has written about 20 books recounting his experiences underground and in prison, is simply to be silenced, or as the lapidary reasoning of the judgement puts it: “Mr. Rouillan simply has to shut his mouth.” Yet in a recent interview with German newspaper junge Welt, Rouillan had once again explained how important it is for him to “take responsibility for our memory, for the memory of our struggle and our actions.”
The petition reads:
“Put an end to the ongoing persecution of Jean-Marc Rouillan. Jean-Marc Rouillan has been under house arrest since July 9. For ‘apology of terrorism’ he has to walk around with an electronic ankle bracelet for eight months. Although his sentence will expire in a few months, the public prosecutor’s office in charge is requesting his imprisonment. The magistrate at the Tribunal of Auch (South of France) will decide on November 25th, in a generally repressive climate fueled by the government.”
“The public prosecutor’s office is basing its request on two incidents involving the ankle bracelet. The first, on August 18, was the result of an accidental impact. The second, on October 24, was a loosening of the ankle bracelet. In both cases, the competent authorities determined that the prisoner had not moved from his place of residence and could be reached without difficulty. There has never been a violation of house arrest. It must also be noted that during the entire period of the sentence the prisoner was unable to make professional or private visits, nor was he granted any reduction in his sentence.
“The prosecutor’s request is evidence of a bitter persecution of Jean-Marc Rouillan, which is all too familiar to him: the State has never stopped inventing excuses to isolate him, marginalize him, and try to reincarcerate him. Jean-Marc Rouillan has a serious auto-immune disease that weakens his immune system. Sending him, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, to a closed institution, where the risk of infection is particularly high, puts him in real danger. Jean-Marc Rouillan’s state of health meets the criteria set by the authorities for special risk. We, the signatories of this appeal, demand the continuation of the house arrest at his place of residence until the end of the sentence.”