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From 2008, the Belgian State started a large investigation aiming at different struggles – but always without concessions – against detention centres, borders, prisons and the world of authority and exploitation.
In its viewfinder: the anarchist library Acrata, anarchist and
anti-authoritarian publications (Hors Service, La Cavale and Tout doit partir), dozens of flyers and posters, more than a hundred actions, attacks and sabotages…in other words the fight against Power in all its different expressions.
Initially charged with “participation in a terrorist group”, it is
finally under the accusation of “criminal association” that 12 comrades were on trial at the end of April in Brussels. Around the same time, 6 comrades received a convocation for the Chambre du Conseil connected to another investigation that could result in formal accusations for “incitement to commit crimes”.
On the 29th and 30th of April 2019, the trial was held in Brussels
against anarchists prosecuted for “criminal association” as well as for a series of crimes. In 2017 the Chambre du Conseil had already disqualified the accusation of participation in a terrorist group and dropped a number of accusations for which it felt there were not sufficient grounds to charge.
Two defendants attended the trial at the Criminal Court. They refused to answer the questions of the magistrates. The other ten accused did not show up. All were represented by lawyers. Following the oral argument of magistrate Malagnini of the Federal Prosecution, the lawyers took the floor and pleaded inadmissibility and acquittal. For his part, the prosecutor asked for sentences ranging from 100 to 300 hours of community service or a subsidiary sentence ranging from 12 months to 4 years in prison (9 accused), a suspended sentence of 12 months and a fine of 50 euros for one person and acquittal for 2 persons. The accused refused to accept work punishments.
On Tuesday, the 28th of May, the verdict was delivered. The court
finally ruled the inadmissibility of the prosecuting since “the means of investigation implemented exceeded the framework of the strictly necessary and authorized” and “have brought a serious and irreparable harm” to “a fair trial”. Regarding the attack on the police station of the Marolles in 2010 (which was originally a separate investigation); two persons are acquitted and one found guilty of having resisted his arrest without being sentenced because the reasonable length of time has been exceeded. However, the prosecutor has 40 days to appeal the judgment.
The judge considers that at the time of the investigation there were no serious indications of a terrorist offence, nor any specific evidence to suspect the defendants of having participated in arsons. Since these two accusations were the grounds on which the investigating magistrate Panou had relied to order wiretapping, these must be removed from the record. Moreover, she notes that at the beginning of June 2010 systematic observations (surveillance) were carried out without authorization.
Finally, she considers that the investigation was clearly conducted in a proactive manner (aimed at the repression of offences that could arise from a criminal association), and not reactive (identifying the perpetrators or look for evidence of specific offences). However, she does not find in the file nor the authorization of the prosecutor to initiate an investigation of this type nor the grounds to justify it.
In the meantime, another investigation – also conducted by the same counterterrorist police but headed by the investigating magistrate De Coster – is moving forward. Following the formal stage of the Chambre des mises en accusations (to approve the means of investigation), a session in the Chambre du Conseil was scheduled for the 4th of June. The initial investigation report refers to the accusation of “participation in a terrorist group”, but it is for “incitement to commit crimes (arson) and misdemeanours (property damage)” that 6 comrades will be potentially charged. The session was postponed until the 12th of September.
Some reflections following the trial
I will not be there
After a long investigation by counterterrorism cops against anarchists, starting in 2009, we have finally arrived at the zenith of the juridical process. Three judges will hear both sides and make a verdict. This is the climax. Based on the evidence produced by the cops and rebuked by the defence, a sentence will be announced. Or so goes the mythology of this Justice system.
What is forgotten, is that during years the people investigated (and their close ones) have been harassed by cops spying on them (a microphone and cameras in and in front of houses, tapped phones, being followed, bullying and offering bribes in an attempt to recruit snitches), they had personal belongings and materials stolen (during several house raids in 2013 and 2015), their personal lives have been combed through.
What is hidden by this image of culmination, is that this trial and
verdict will probably be just another episode. There have been more cliffhangers like this, since the moment it was clear an investigation was targeting anarchists and during all the following juridical steps after this investigation was closed.
What is not being said is that another investigation against anarchists by the same cops was opened even before the first one was finished.
Another trial, another spin-off series. Coming to you soon.
What we’re not supposed to talk about is that a couple of dozen
anarchists have been put on the OCAM list [coordination of ministries, intelligence services and police]; meaning continued surveillance, unannounced visits to home addresses, pressure to participate in de-radicalising programmes [“voluntary” submission to more prying into personal lives by cops], and routine police controls anywhere in Europe turning into an interrogation, a patdown and records made of all travel companions.
Without wanting to trivialize the difference between being spied on by cops or being sent to jail; repression is not a question of an objective analysis of the situation possibly followed by a punishment, as
democratic ideology would have it, but it is constant pressure and intimidation.
This trial is just a more spectacular scene in the ongoing saga of
And I refuse to play my role in it.
I have been present in enough trials of others to know that I don’t want to voluntarily take part in the power games being played in them.
I don’t feel the need to legitimize my life to people with whom I share no values and I won’t be bullied into doing so by people who can ultimately decide to put me in a cage.
This is not my story, this is not my life.
Reading the files of a police investigation is like reading the mind of a conspiracy theorist. Every event, every gesture, every word, every individual can – with some twisting and bending – be made to fit into the narrative. The words seem like I heard them before, and in the pictures I recognize friends; but this is not my life, this is some fictionalized, distorted version of it.
I will not take my place in the dock for the accused because I don’t want to allow them to think this trial is about my life. This trial is about a story crafted by some cops; what is the subject of the debate is the workings of their minds. If the judges share their mindset; they will convict. The existence of evidence matters only in view of the harshness of the punishment and how much they can give out without causing an uproar.
Some final remarks for the sake of clarity. I don’t hold my position as an absolute, I respect other choices that seek in other ways to refuse the power of cops and judges over our lives. And I’m fully aware that my choice is taken inside a particular context. Part of this context is that being present during your trial is not obligatory in Belgium (although being absent is discouraged and understood as having a negative impact on the verdict), and that I will have a lawyer present; not to defend my life and my choices but to make the question turn towards the flawed and distorted storyline that has been constructed by cops seeing conspiracies behind every corner.
[Open letter to close ones, April 2019]