More evidence has been found regarding instructions given to undercover police officer Mark Kennedy by his spycop supervisors to infiltrate a group of French environmental protesters, subsequently dubbed the ‘Tarnac 9’. A week ago we published an extract from Kennedy’s police files, revealing the authorisation he was given to spy upon certain targeted individuals living in the remote French village of Tarnac. Now a second extract from the same files has been identified, providing specific instructions to Kennedy on what he should do at Tarnac. The defence team representing the Tarnac accused have long argued that the legal case made against their clients is predicated on Kennedy’s role in the French operation. Given the documented and other evidence regarding that role, there is now a cogent argument that all charges against the Tarnac accused should be dropped.
A. The Kennedy authorisations
Firstly, here again is the order specifically given to Kennedy – who, at the time, was working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) – to infiltrate a group of people living in the French village of Tarnac. This authorisation was extracted from a tranche of files called ‘Operation Pegasus’ that mostly relate to Kennedy’s role in a 2008 protest by environmentalists, who stopped a train carrying coal to the Drax power station in north Yorkshire.
The extract states that on January 29th, 2007, authorisation was given by Assistant Chief Constable Sampson (and, later, renewed on 22nd January, 2008 by Acting ACC John Parkinson) to UCO (Undercover Officer) Kennedy to infiltrate a group of people in Tarnac that included Sandra Gobels and Julien Coupat. (The French authorities later described Coupat as the ‘ringleader’ of a group of environmental activists, based mostly in Tarnac).
Secondly, these same files include another reference to the Tarnac deployment – an item that is brief and easily overlooked, but is highly significant. This item is reproduced here too (see image below). The reference, timed at 12.30, is a brief update by Kennedy to his handler, Detective Inspector Hutcheson.
In the extract, DI Hutcheson is informed by Kennedy that he (Kennedy) is instructed “to put 5×5 on re [name of activist redacted] visiting Julien at farm”. Julien is Julien Coupat. The farm is in the village of Tarnac, France.
This short extract is for the Tarnac accused with regard to the role Kennedy played the proverbial smoking gun.
Indeed, here’s what happened next…
“During the summer, 2008, three months before they [the Tarnac 9] were arrested, some inhabitants of Tarnac saw the arrival of two visitors in their farm. It was Mark Stone [Kennedy’s alias name] and his American mate, the one who was with him in New York. A friendly visit – militant tourism….”
In other words, DI Hutcheson’s instructions had been acted upon.
It’s also important to note that the files clearly show that the authorisation and instruction given to Kennedy to infiltrate Tarnac were given by the same handler and supervisors who managed the Drax action. This provides documented proof that the Tarnac assignment was organised and directed from within Operation Pegasus. Consequently, the Pitchford Inquiry can no longer pretend that Kennedy’s activities in France and in other countries – as well as the overseas activities of his fellow spycops – are irrelevant to the Inquiry’s deliberations.
William Bourdon, one of the lawyers representing those who were arrested at Tarnac, has previously stated that he believes Kennedy’s contribution to the French investigation is critical:
“If it [Kennedy’s involvement] turned out to be true, this would be as serious as the telephone tapping carried out in Tarnac before the legal proceedings. The way the police obtain evidence should be supervised. The notion of terrorism is misguided in order to obtain pieces of evidence that couldn’t be used in the context of other cases. Intelligence agencies probably have a dossier that is much thicker than the legal file, but it was not disclosed to the defence lawyers. This is a serious breach of fair trial standards.”
B. Who were the ‘Tarnac 9’?
A reminder of who the ‘Tarnac 9’ were…
The ‘Tarnac 9’ were four men and five women, aged 22 to 34, who were being investigated by the French authorities and subsequently arrested after a series of dawn raids by police in November 2008.
On 11 November of that year 20 French men and women were arrested simultaneously in Paris, Rouen, and in the small village of Tarnac (located in the district of Corrèze, Massif Central). The police operation was dramatic and involved helicopters, one hundred and fifty balaclava-clad anti-terrorist police and massive media coverage.
After the raids and arrests, major demonstrations took place in cities across France, demanding that all those detained be released.
Those arrested included a Swiss sitcom actor, a distinguished clarinetist, a student nurse and Benjamin Rosoux, an Edinburgh University graduate who runs the grocer’s shop and its adjoining bar-restaurant in the village.
The authorities named Julien Coupat as the ‘leader’ of those arrested. They also described him as the author of a textbook, published by the “Invisible Committee of the Imaginary Party”, called “The Coming Insurrection”. This book – which became widely available in bookshops and even on Amazon – discussed sabotage and the means to overthrow the state.
Coupat, together with others who escaped city life for Tarnac, lived in a farm commune; they also ran the local village shop, a mobile delivery service, the restaurant, a cinema club and an informal library. These anti-consumerists owned no phones and lived simple lifestyles.
The nine who were arrested were initially accused of vandalising property of the French railways, causing delays to trains. Specifically, they were accused of obstructing the trains’ power cables.
After the raids, nine of the ten persons arrested were charged with ‘criminal association, with aims of terrorism’ and five were remanded in custody (three on the basis of ‘having contributed to the causing of damage’).
Yildune Lévy, the partner of Coupat, was released, under review, a few weeks later, on January 16, 2009. Julien Coupat was released on May 28 of the same year.
By August 2015 the number of persons facing charges had been reduced to four – Yildune Levy, Julien Coupat and two others. Also, the charges had been reduced to ‘conspiracy’ (a far lesser charge in France).
C. The British connection
British police played a major role regarding the arrests of the ‘Tarnac 9’. Responding to an earlier request from French authorities for help with the case, Detective Chief Inspector Richard May, of the UK’s National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), wrote to his French counterpart: “The United Kingdom law enforcement units are able to confirm that information is available” that Julien Coupat had attended a meeting in Nancy in February 2008. DCI May added: “Later that same day, the meeting moved to a location in a village called Moussey, France. During these meetings, the making of improvised explosive devices was both discussed and practised.” Two other ‘activists’ were named as being present at these meetings.
May also referred to another meeting: “The United Kingdom law enforcement units are able to state that information is available that Julien Coupat was present at a meeting in New York, USA, between 12 and 13 January 2008.”
Kennedy later claimed it was he who witnessed the ‘activists’ practising making explosives. It was also Kennedy who provided ‘intelligence’ about the New York meeting (of international anarchists) to which Coupat and Levy allegedly attended. The latter has been corroborated, according to one report, by an activist who witnessed Kennedy at the New York meeting, who stated that Kennedy, using an alias, had gathered information “about a man and a woman who were accused later that year of associating with “a terrorist enterprise” and sabotaging high-speed train lines in France”. FBI agents (presumably tipped off by Kennedy) were posted outside the New York building where the activists had met, videotaping the arrival and departure of Coupat, Levy and others. Those videotapes were later given to French prosecutors, along with a detailed log compiled by the FBI agents.
At the time, police across Europe were co-ordinating their intelligence-gathering resources, with Kennedy playing a key undercover role in many countries. The aim was to subvert what the police called a ‘Euro-anarchist’ movement, which brought together environmental protesters and anti-capitalists. Indeed, it is claimed that Kennedy first made contact with some of the Tarnac ‘activists’ in February 2007, in Warsaw, at an anti-G8 planning meeting.
In France, as elsewhere, the authorities were determined to rebrand these protesters as terrorists.
“To consider the Tarnac case is to be faced with a pattern for the criminalisation of dissent which is becoming ever more general, and which is likely to intensify as Europe (witness the recent events in Greece) is confronted with forms of social conflict which challenge the viability of the socio-economic order. The French authorities have made it clear that the aim of this highly spectacular operation was to send a pre-emptive message, to nip in the bud the perceived threat of anti-capitalist movements that refuse the parliamentary arena and opt for direct action. This is what the French security services, with the imprecision typical of inquisitions, have been referring to as the “anarcho-autonomist tendency”. They have also referred to these political milieus as “pre-terrorist”.” Alberto Toscano
D. Spycops discredited
The French authorities subsequently refused to acknowledge that the UK and US reports, provided by Kennedy, contributed in any way to the Tarnac case. The Tarnac defence lawyers, however, maintain that if it was not for those reports provided by Kennedy, the arrests and the charges raised may never have eventuated.
Since the revelations by DCI May, the undercover work of Kennedy has been widely discredited and is now the subject of a major review (the Pitchford Inquiry). It is been formally recognised that Kennedy’s undercover role in the June 2008 Drax and April 2009 Ratcliffe actions was pivotal to both those actions (i.e. it’s possible those actions may not have occurred without Kennedy’s intervention).
After it was shown that the role of Kennedy in infiltrating the Drax protesters’ group had been excluded from evidence at the trial of those protesters, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, invited the 29 people who had been convicted of stopping the coal train to appeal against their convictions. Subsequently all 29 convictions were overturned.
Charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass were also brought against 26 of those arrested for a planned protest in April 2009, aimed at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. 20 of these activists admitted participation in the planned protest, but stated that their actions were justified (the other six stated that they had not participated in the planned protest). The trial of the 20 in December 2010 saw all convicted, though not jailed. The case against the six accused of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at Ratcliffe spectacularly collapsed in January 2011, following the revelations of Mark Kennedy’s activities as an undercover policeman. The Crown Prosecution Service were forced to withdraw the case after it was shown that crucial evidence had been withheld from the defence team. On 19 July, 2011, England’s Court of Appeals quashed all 20 convictions of those who had admitted participation in the planned raid. The Court described Kennedy’s role “as an enthusiastic supporter” in the planned protest as “arguably, an agent provocateur,” because he had “a significant role in assisting, advising and supporting…the very activity for which these appellants were prosecuted”.
E. And now?
Many argued that the raid on Tarnac and the charges initially raised were a gross overreaction by the authorities. The sabotage that had occurred resulted merely in trains being delayed – there was never any question of danger to passengers. To describe that sabotage as ‘terrorism’ was clearly ridiculous; similarly, to deploy scores of armed paramilitary-style police, backed up by helicopters during the raid on Tarnac, was completely over the top.
Meanwhile, British police continue to repeat their mantra that they ‘neither confirm nor deny” anything about Kennedy’s operations outside of the UK, arguing that to do otherwise “would reveal their source”. This, of course, is an absurdity, as everyone, bar the cat, knows via a number of witnesses a great deal about Kennedy’s foreign exploits.
Indeed, the Tarnac accused are cognisant of both the content and significance of the ‘Kennedy files’, while their defence team remains convinced that the case against them is seriously flawed.
Given the written and other extensive evidence concerning the part that Kennedy played in the lead-up to the arrests, the French lawyers, with assistance of key British lawyers, may well be in a position to demand that all outstanding charges be dropped.
(Note… From 2003 until his eposure in October 2010, Mark Kennedy spent seven years undercover, living among environmental, anti-globalization, anarchist and antifascist activists. He worked with groups such as Dissent!, Rising Tide, Saving Iceland, Workers’ Solidarity Movement, Rossport Solidarity, Climate Camp, Climate Justice Action and many others. As well as France, Kennedy is believed to have worked undercover in Scotland, in Ireland, in Germany, in Spain, in Denmark, in the USA, in Italy, in Belgium, in Poland and in Iceland, amongst other places. His exposure led to demands in many of those countries for official information about his activities.)
- The curious case of the UK spycop, the (French) ‘Invisible Committee’ and the FBI
- Mark Kennedy: the spycop who disappeared into the cold
- Julien Coupat : l’affaire de Tarnac, «l’un des plus grands fiascos de l’antiterrorisme»
- Lightning Rod: Full text of i nterview with Julien Coupat
- Tarnac : Julien Coupat considère les réquisitions du parquet « hilarantes »
- Vive Le Tarnac Nine!
- Criminalising dissent, by Alberto Toscano
- Rural idyll or terrorist hub? The village that police say is a threat to the state
- Tarnac: l’infiltré britannique
- Tarnac, retour sur deux ans d’enquête
- Video of Mark Kennedy at Animal Rights event, July 2010 (Italy)
- Manewry w Ciemnosciach (Poland)
- La història de l’espia britànic i de l’activista barcelonina que va trobar un GPS al cotxe (Spain)
- The Mark Kennedy Saga Chapter (Iceland)
- Undercover officer Mark Kennedy ‘monitored NI groups’ (N Ireland)
- German MPs Demand Answers About UK Spycops (Germany)
- Undercover policeman admits spying on Danish activists (Denmark)
- The importance of Scotland (Scotland)