Widespread Condemnation of Arrest of French Publisher
By Julia Fitzpatrick
Politicians, authors and publishers have condemned the arrest of a French publisher by UK counter-terrorism police. Ernest Moret was stopped by two police officers in St Pancras station on Monday 17 April. Moret, who is a Foreign Rights Manager for Paris-based publishing house Éditions La Fabrique, had travelled from Paris by train to attend the London Book Fair. He was questioned by police for six hours over his participation in French anti-government protests, before being arrested for alleged obstruction for refusing to disclose the passwords to his phone and computer. Moret was transferred to a police station in Islington, North London. He was released on bail the next day, but his phone and laptop remained in police custody.
Éditions La Fabrique is well-known for publishing activist works by left-wing authors, including a French translation of Andreas Malm’s book about direct action, How to Blow up a Pipeline. Stella Magliani-Belkacem, the company’s Editorial Director, travelled to London with Moret. She told The Guardian that the police officers “said they had the right to ask him about demonstrations in France.” Demonstrations the previous month, which were attended by hundreds of thousands of people in France, were organised in protest of President Emmanuel Macron’s use of executive powers to push through an increase in the state pension age.
The arrest has been denounced by figures within the publishing industry. Malm suggested that “the French clearly outsourced the ongoing crackdown [over the pension protests] to the British state” and noted that “Brexit hasn’t stopped the police services from collaborating across borders.” A joint statement from Éditions La Fabrique and Verso Books called on “all defenders of basic democratic values to express in the strongest terms that we find this intolerable and outrageous.” Karen Sullivan, the founder of Orenda Books, said that the incident would mean “that international publishers and authors – many of whom use their positions in the media spotlight to highlight societal issues – will think twice about visiting the UK.”
Moret’s treatment has also been condemned by twelve Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in a letter sent to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. The MEPs wrote that it was “quite remarkably inappropriate” for British police to arrest someone for involvement with protests in France, and that their actions represented “outrageous and unjustifiable infringements of basic principles of the freedom of expression and an example of the abuse of anti-terrorism laws.”