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international bordercamp strasbourg

17 activists held hostage to the justice system in Colmar: the backsliding prosecutor eats his words.

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07.Feb.03 - On August 23 2002, 17 people for the Collective to Support the NoBorder Camp Defendants occupy the Strasbourg branch office of the Ministry of Justice. The aim of their action is so that one of the incarcerated participants of the No Border Camp can finally be allowed visits and released from solitary confinement. The activist in question, who had been arrested among others during a demonstration for freedom of movement and for all immigrant detention centers to be closed, was held in pretrial detention under particularly cruel conditions, those conditions that are part of the toolbox that the prison system uses daily to break prisoners. The three employees present during the occupation decided to stay on-site because their higher-ups had told them to stay.

In the course of the occupation, negotiations with the prosecutor appeared to be starting... but were brutally interrupted by the intervention of the National Guard as well as the Anti-Criminal Brigade (robo-cops). And so began a catastrophic scenario that finally became a burlesque show of the (in)justice system, a symptom of prosecutorial powers grown out of control: 48 hours in the police station waiting for charges, then a night in the Strasbourg jail followed by an immediate court appearance for... "hostage-taking and home invasion." Demonstrating the inanity first of the accusation and then of the lawyers' arguments, the judge recused himself as unfit to hear such a case, and the 17 activists are released, to the great chagrin of the prosecutor who had asked for 4 months jail time with parole after 1 month; his attempt at making up a small occupation into a "hostage crisis" had already failed. Defeated mid-stroke, the prosecutor made an appeal anyway. Squeaky wheel gets the grease...

On February 6th, the Colmar appeals court played theatre to a most unusual spectacle. It is exceedingly rare for a prosecutor to plead for charges to be dropped on one hand (he dropped the charge of hostage-taking) and a supposed "clemency" (2 months' suspended sentence for home invasion) on the other.

It must be said that the facts were hardly in any position to substantiate the charges: the witnesses for the prosecution denounced the "omissions" in the police reports, explaining to the court that the police effectively blocked the emergency exit to the outside (despite the judge's determination not to hear the same testimony coming from the 17 activists), and that one employee's "desire to get out" (which the employee had expressed after the Ministry of Justice authorities had given the employees a direct order to stay) was thwarted by the police themselves rather than by the 17 activists.

Furthermore, after the intervention of the National Guard, 48 hours of detention without charges in the police station, a day in prison, immediate appearance before the judge, and seven hours of appeals hearings, the prosecutor admits that, in his opinion, the charge of hostage-taking had never been applicable in the first place. It is thus in the light of these two manipulations (judicial manipulation but also manipulation of the facts themselves) that one must read the prosecutor's public repentance.

Let us not forget; the prosecutor has not, for all that, shown any of the "desire to repent" so often demanded of defendants during trials, and this will not prevent the prosecutor from asking the court to pronounce a suspended sentence "as a matter of principle," with the thinly-veiled aim of anticipating "security" laws currently being debated, thereby transforming his "unsuccessful experiment" in the criminalization of the practice of building-occupation, into a precedent-setting prosecutorial procedure via a jurisprudential finagling of charges.

This overt breach in the accusation has allowed us to make public a little of the violence inflicted by the police, the judicial system, and the prison system as it invades the daily lives of each human being: for example, the brutality of the Anti-Criminal Brigade; solitary confinement; refusal of visitation permits to prisoners, which is designed to break prisoners' will; and in general all forms of social control that seek to regulate every moment of our lives.

The occupation of buildings is a time-honored and generally respected form of civil disobedience, utilized in labor, migrants', students' and other struggles throughout society. Along with all of those who have mobilized with us to defend this common form of struggle and of social self-defense (in particular, the autonomous collectives of undocumented migrants who turned out in great numbers to show their support, calling for a demonstration and rally in Paris as well as occupying official sites themselves twice in the past 18 days), we eagerly await the verdict of February 27.

In light of the continuing judicial persecution against those whom they call "the No Borders" we will continue to mobilize for the trials of the No Border Camp defendants, which will take place from February 22 to 28 in Strasbourg. We call for a week of action against social control, from February 22 to 28, in solidarity with the defendants. We also continue to mobilize and call for solidarity actions for the trial against the three people arrested in front of the occupied Ministry of Justice office; this hearing will take place on March 20.

They have called us terrorists because they wish to terrorize us. With or without papers, with or without jobs, with or without income, we will continue to occupy the spaces claimed by the powers that be, so as to take back the rights that they refuse to give to us. Drop all charges against all those charged. Papers for all or no papers at all. Freedom of movement, freedom of residence: the right to come, the right to go, the right to stay.

-The seventeen office-occupationists and the collective to support the No Border defendants.

Les 17 et le collectif de soutien aux inculpés NoBorder