(UnitedVoice.com) – Protests in France have been happening for weeks. It all started when President Emmanuel Macron proposed changes to the country’s retirement age. Despite the outrage, he signed a bill into law raising it from age 62 to age 64.
There’s now fresh outrage in both France and elsewhere after an employee of a publishing house was arrested in the UK. People are describing the man’s detainment as “chilling.”
On April 17, two plainclothes police officers approached 28-year-old Ernest Moret at the St Pancras International Station in London. The foreign rights manager for French publisher Éditions la Fabrique was in the city to attend a book fair. Unfortunately, he didn’t get far.
The officers took Moret into custody after he refused to give them the passwords for his computer and phone. He was held for six hours and questioned by authorities for allegedly participating in the protests in France.
Stella Magliani-Belkacem, one of Moret’s colleagues, was there for the arrest. She told The Guardian that the officers told them that they were police with the counter-terrorism division. Then she said they showed Moret a paper and claimed they were within their rights under “section 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 […] to ask him about demonstrations in France.”
Police kept Moret overnight and released him the next day on bail. He was accused of obstructing the police by not giving them his passcodes.
Éditions la Fabrique and Verso Books issued a joint statement about the incident. The statement said that while they are happy that Moret was released from custody, his troubles are not over yet. He has to return to London in four weeks for another appearance in front of the anti-terrorism unit, and law enforcement kept his belongings.
The companies said the British police are going to “extract all the data” from Moret’s devices, and “exploit it.” According to the statement, the counter-terrorism unit is unique. It allows law enforcement to detain people “without any investigative leads [or] suspicious behavior,” and then they interrogate the alleged suspects, which exposes them “to legal proceedings if they refuse to cooperate.”
During the six hours of questioning, the statement said the police asked Moret about his thoughts on the president, government, pandemic, and the names of writers who contribute articles that are critical of the French government to La Fabrique. The companies called the questioning “chilling.”
Pen International, a writer’s organization, called the arrest “deeply concerning” in a statement to The Guardian.
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