This is a translation of the 3rd volume of Yann Fouéré’s autobiography.
New French edition published in October 2012, with Preface by Erwan Fouéré, as well as Photos and articles(some in English) of the campaign for the liberation of Yann Fouéré. (See under ‘Articles’ on this site for more photos and articles about this.)
In addition, attached to the inside cover of the book, is a CD of a conversation, 3 days before Yann Fouéré’s release, between Winnie Ewing, Scots Nationalist and European Parliament MP from 1975 t0 1999, and some European Deputies, notably the Welsh deputy Tom Ellis, who had just addressed the European Parliament for the liberation of Yann Fouéré and other Breton detainees.
Also on the CD is the recording of a conference given by Yann Fouéré at Kervreizh in Paris, organised by Skoazell Vreizh on his release.
IN PRISON FOR THE FLB/Front de Liberation de la Bretagne
IN PRISON for the liberation of Brittany
For my wife Marie Magdeleine, for my children Rozenn, Jean, Erwan, Benig and Olwen, who never left my thoughts as I wrote this account.
The acronym for the ‘Front de Liberation de la Bretagne’ F.L.B., appeared publicly for the first time in 1965. During 1967 and 1968, in spite of a deliberate interruption of the events of May ’68, the FLB claimed responsibility for numerous bomb attacks in Brittany, carried out against prefecture buildings, tax offices, monuments and administrative premises, barracks and police stations. It was quickly coupled with an activist branch, termed as military, under the acronym A.R.B., ‘Armée Republicaine, (later Revolutionaire), Bretonne’. At the beginning of 1969, just after the publication of its first public manifesto, a series of arrests dismantled the main networks of the F.L.B./A.R.B. A hundred or so people were harassed, around fifty arrested, charged before the State Security Court and incarcerated.
Owing to the strong feelings triggered by these arrests in Brittany, affecting all social groups and referred to during the 1969 presidential election campaign, an amnesty is granted in June of that year, before a trial could take place. All the imprisoned Bretons are released.
End of 1969 another, purely political, F.L.B. is created in the form of a legally declared Association. Its existence is short lived, but seems to then become a clandestine F.L.B.-L.N.S. ‘Liberation Nationale et Socialiste’, although its activity appears to be mainly political and verbal. Some refer to it as being created by the police.
In 1971, the bomb attacks are resumed. At the beginning of 1972, a similar network identifying with the F.L.B. is dismantled after having committed a number of attacks. In October 1972, around ten of their activists stand trial before the State Security Court, which condemns a number of them to suspended prison sentences. But the attacks continue – none are directed against people- no wounds inflicted. In its ten years of existence the F.L.B., owing to the precautions it took, could not be credited with any victims. House searches, detentions and people held in custody increased. At the beginning of 1974, the arrest and indictment of three activists provokes no repercussions. On the 29th January 1974, three different F.L.B. were dissolved by the Council of Ministers – the F.L.B.-A.R.B., the legal F.L.B. and the F.L.B.-L.N.S. At the same time it dissolved a clandestine Corsican movement – the F.P.C.L. |‘Front Paysan Corse de Liberation’, and a legal Basque movement, Enbata.
This was a waste of time, as could be expected. The attacks continued, in Corsica and in Brittany – some being quite spectacular, such as the destruction of the Roc-Tredudon television broadcasting aerial near Morlaix. In Corsica they increased – six hundred attacks in less than two years. Another wave of house searches and arrests in Brittany came to a head at the end of 1974 with the indictment of only one activist, who had to be released after being detained for two months. End of July 1975, three activists from Guerande – Pierre Loquet, Gerard Coriton and Dominique Crochard, are arrested, charged and incarcerated. End of October of the same year, around a hundred house searches and fifty people taken in custody led to thirteen activists, from various allegiances, being charged, of which nine were incarcerated. It is at this point of history that the following account took place.
The First Part follows on this page. Click on the activated Second Part and Third Part below to access those sections to date. The balance will be added in due course.
Gardé a vue/Held in Custody
‘Gardé a vue ‘(keep in sight) – Held in Custody
“The man of action prefers those situations, even bad ones, where something happens, to the situations, even good ones, where nothing happens.” M.S.
“So this is my cell?”
“It is not a cell, monsieur. See, the door is open. There are no bars on the window. It is a room.”
“But I cannot leave it?”
“But yes of course, monsieur – you can go whenever you want to the toilet that is opposite.”
“But I cannot go outside?”
“You cannot go outside as the door of the corridor that leads outside must remain closed. You cannot open your window either.”
“But I can wander around in the corridor?”
“I’m afraid not, monsieur, as you see, there are other doors opening onto the same corridor. A guard sits in front of each one, just as I am seated in front of yours. In each room there is another person held in custody, as you are – but according to the orders we have received you are not authorised to see them, or to communicate with them, or them with you. When one of them moves to go to the toilet, I will be obliged to close your door, as they have to pass by and you would see them. You must not see them, or speak to them, or recognise each other.”
“I see! In any case, now that I have put away my things I am going to bed to sleep, and therefore close the door.”
“Ah! But no, monsieur, you cannot close the door either. You see, I must not take my eyes off you, even when you are sleeping or washing yourself, or taking your meals. That is why it is called ‘Garde a vue’(Keep in sight).”
“Extraordinary! And you can keep me for eight days like this, kidnapped so to speak, and you say I am not in prison?”
“But of course not monsieur. Your door is open – you are not locked up. You are free to do anything that I have not mentioned.”
‘Gardé a vue’ my door must remain open. Therefore I am free. This proves that my daughter Olwen is right – I battle with her for always leaving doors open after her, including the toilet door…after she has finished! She is therefore a free person!
That night I understood that in France there are very different concepts of freedom. Those of you who can open your doors are free people – I am therefore free as I cannot close mine. We are therefore all free. Am I as free as you are or you as free as I am? And that freedom we all have, is it not watched by the State?
This dialogue took place on the 20th of October last (1975), around 10 o clock at night at the C.R.S.19 (State Security Police) barracks in Rennes. But to begin this account I had to wait until I had once more the use of a table and stool, and until I could be more or less sure that I would not be interrupted at any moment to reply to indiscreet investigators, to sign masses of documents, or read through them, think of all the commitments I would not be able to fulfil, the appointments I would not be able to keep, the urgent business matters that would suffer, which I direct, and the planned meetings I would not be able to attend!
It had all started on the previous Saturday 18th at first light. The radio, and certain mysterious warnings, had announced that house searches as part of a new anti-F.L.B. police swoop were taking place all over Brittany, and that arrests of Breton activists had already been made. It is always on a Saturday that these things take place. Why? – Quite simply because there are no newspapers on a Sunday, giving the police two days before any reaction can be organised. The French government is shrewd, and knows what it is after, with its little tricks plain for all to see!
Brittany is actually unperturbed. It has seen worse; It is the umpteenth police operation against the F.L.B. in the past three or four years. The police never find a thing and the F.L.B. still carries on. Does the F.L.B. actually exist? Is it or is it not? A Shakespearean question as Pierre Duclos said in Ouest France. If not a myth it is as a fish in water, and that kind of fish always escapes the nets. Brittany is now clear as to who qualifies as being of the F.L.B., all Breton activists of any kind, as described in the old days by ‘Breiz Atao’ – particularly confusing with the multitude of acronyms that we have coming out like flowers in springtime. All of that, for sure is the F.L.B.! The nuances only exist in the minds of the activists, who take themselves a little too seriously. Public opinion does not see the nuances: it lumps them all together.
It has to be admitted that the F.L.B. is rather likeable : for so long it has played the role of policeman and thief that you are left wondering which is the policeman and which the thief between the illegal activist and the police of Prince Ponia (Michel Poniatovski/ Minister of the Interior in the d’Estaing government from 1974 to 1977). The number of tax offices, prefecture buildings and military barracks it has blown up, and succeeded in never hurting a fly! One cannot help but take ones hat off to it. The journalists have not yet found a single Breton saying that if he knew who it was he would denounce it.
Little by little, on Saturday evening and all day Sunday, news filters through. They have arrested Dr. Guy Caro, regional councillor for Plouguenast, one of the leaders of the new autonomist and socialist self managing Breton Front (F.A.S.A.B.). That also is a classic move. He is always arrested, and he always gets out, and he starts again. Strange that no priest has been arrested as yet: there are always priests in the F.L.B. affairs; since they stopped wearing the cassock there is no holding them back; they are now better able than anyone to jump over the few ditches we have left: but let’s just wait and see!
We learn also that this new operation called Sultan IV, against the F.L.B., is being carried out on the pretext of searching for those responsible for attacks on the homes of three Ille-et-Villaine parliamentarians, MM. Fréville, Le Douarec and Esteve. In addition, Parliamentarians from the majority have received threatening letters: it seems that these gentlemen are afraid. Why then did they become parliamentarians? Those involved in politics are sure to receive threatening letters; that is true of all countries in the world. Not to receive any really implies one is a non-entity, incapable and a loser: Cressard did not receive any, he must be jealous. Within the Breton movement, where they generally have personality, they have long been accustomed to threatening letters: over a hundred of us received some at the beginning of this year. We did not make a big thing of it. And in any case, why should this operation be christened anti F.L.B., when everyone knows that the F.L.B.is not responsible for these attacks? This is not its method. In addition, it always signs its attacks, the true F.L.B. anyway, as seemingly there are numerous false ones! Who could have decided to attack good old Esteve, your typical village political personality, who never did any harm, or even possibly any good, to the smallest insect! This attack must have polished up his image: for once at least his existence is acknowledged! I am fond of him, personally: he was a friend of my father’s and in spite of his ‘autonomist’ of a son, was present at my side to accompany his coffin to the cemetery.
Monday morning. I pack my suitcases. My flight leaves at eleven thirty and I should be in Dublin this evening. My bookings were made on the 24th September, date of my departure from Dublin, and my ticket expires on the 24th October. I must be in Aberystwyth for the 23rd at the latest, to participate in the International Conference celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Welsh Nationalist Party, and at a meeting of the Bureau of Unrepresented European nations. I cannot possibly delay my departure. Pity: I would have liked to follow more closely the course of this new episode in the game of hide and seek between the F.L.B. and Ponia’s police. What an idiot this Ponia! He came a cropper over the Corsican affair, handling it like an inexperienced cabin boy. Now he has taken on a Breton affair. Does he think he can thus polish up a tarnished image? No one is in any doubt that he will pay the price.
The Press : Dr.Caro has begun a hunger strike. Hervé Le Borgne has disappeared after damaging a police car: he will at least be fined for speeding. Ah! Here is the priest! Aime Le Breton, parish priest of Gomenec’h and of Treverec, has been arrested. A slow burning wick was found in the sacristy. This is actually not an offence. But the priest is an old hand. There cannot be an F.L.B. affair without him. He is already one of its stars. He was mixed up in the 1972 F.L.B. affair and was put behind bars in Rennes after a Breton demonstration, which led to him being triumphantly carried away after an acquittal from the Rennes Criminal Court. Deprived of their Parish Priest, the town hall councillors from the two communes he serves had clamoured for his return.
Ten thirty : It is time to call a taxi and leave for the airport. I telephone the station and go down to the square in front of my place to wait for the taxi. Eleven o clock: I check in : my suitcase goes through and I am given my boarding card; I wait patiently in the departure hall. Eleven twenty five: two men in a great hurry, arriving by car, rush over to the ticket counter. The official gives them a signal. One of the men approaches me.
“Could I have a word with you, monsieur?”
“But of course.”
He draws me aside.
“I am from the police: here is my card. I must ask you to follow me to the police station.”
“But Monsieur, I leave in five minutes: could you not have come sooner?”
“Nothing I can do about it personally: in any case it is not the eleven thirty plane that you will be catching.”
Had I been under surveillance since Saturday? Or was there an informer at the airport? For sure, as for two years now there has been no police check. Fine occupation! To find out whom it is: there are only two to choose from. I will find him. Resigned, I get my suitcase back, which is kindly carried for me, then my ticket. Blast! It will expire. A few minutes later, I am back in the centre of Saint Brieuc, at the police station. How stupid! I could have saved myself the cost of a taxi.
“You will wait in this office, monsieur, with one of our inspectors, until the CID police arrive. They are the ones you will have to deal with: we only carry out their orders. They are on their way and will be arriving from Rennes in under an hour.”
I go through the newspapers and my mail from this morning. Around twelve thirty, the gentlemen from the CID arrive. I ask for their cards and the order by which they had me detained.
“You do not know me?” the older one asks me.
“No, I have probably never seen you.”
“I am Division Inspector Le Scoul of the CID. My two colleagues are Inspectors J.-Y.Besnier and Recors. Here is the order – it is in connection with the inquiry of the attacks committed against the homes MM. Le Douarec, Freville and Esteve.”
“Ah! That is what you call an anti F.L.B. affair? You are surely Breton speaking and a Breton what’s more?”
Le Scoul simply replies in the affirmative. Later on it turns out that he is normally based in Quimper and that Besnier is also of Breton origin. Recors, tall dark haired young man, who speaks with a touch of an accent, is from Marseille. These are reinforcements from Paris. The number of police in Rennes was not sufficient to carry out a police operation on which there had been no skimping, and the magnitude of which public opinion had not yet suspected. Three hundred police took part : more than the regional CID has at its disposal. Considerable reinforcements were therefore requested from Paris to cope with over a hundred house searches, home visits and nearly as many ‘garde a vue’ of Breton activists from all allegiances. The F.L.B. as usual gets the blame. If it did not exist the police would have to invent it. Amongst their numbers, the F.L.B. undoubtedly has at least one who must be in their service.
Since these gentlemen are going to the ‘Bon Coin’ restaurant, behind the station, for lunch – for those it might interest this is their usual meeting place – , I am put in the staffroom and on my request am brought a sandwich and some fruit from the nearby cafe.
Around two p.m. these gentlemen return, and inform me that they will drive me home where they will proceed with a house search. They carry my suitcase which is heavy. I open the door and bring them keys to open various cupboards. With an abundance of politeness :
“After you, Inspector”
“Please go ahead, monsieur Fouéré, as we must do everything in your presence. I will ask you therefore to remain with us.”
And as I remain standing:
“But please do sit down.”
“Thank you, Inspector.”
After all I am in my own place. It reminds me of one of my student friends, a jolly fellow, who during a demonstration in the Latin quarter was taken to the police station for having inundated with compliments the ‘Flic’ or police man who faced him.
“You should be a professor, Constable. You would look well in a gown. It is obvious straight away that you are supremely intelligent. It shows in your face. I have rarely seen such distinction : and not in the least because of the uniform but your natural self etc…”
This did not stop him from foaming at the mouth with each superlative on his intellectual valour and physical qualities. Not being as quick-witted, I keep quiet. These gentlemen are in any case courteous. Le Scoul is absorbed in examining the contents of my briefcase and of my suitcase. All of a sudden behind me, a question:
“Are you a captain, monsieur Fouéré?”
“In the French army?” I asked.
“Why do you say in the French army? Are you a captain in another?”
Heavens! What have I said? I had forgotten that there was also a Breton army: but of course the A.R.B. : the army that Mordrel refers to in his last book ’La Voie Bretonne’, saying that it is not an army since it has decided never to kill anyone. I turn to face the tall dark haired young man and carefully chance:
“Why do you ask me that?”
Then I notice the book he has in his hand and cannot help bursting out laughing. Jean-Pierre Dorian! You had no idea when you dedicated your book to me: ‘To captain Yann Fouéré, whose name rings out as a victory…’, all because I was wearing a sailor’s cap when we met – what a fearsome rank you conferred on me! The speaker hesitates, and showing the book to his boss, asks:
“Do we seize it?”
Le Scoul smiles and with a slight gesture of his hand implies: ‘This one is a greenhorn! It is easy to see that he has never done an investigation in Brittany!’. Evidently, Recors does not know – he was brought down from Paris to search for the A.R.B. ; he is searching conscientiously.
Unperturbed, Le Scoul continues to examine my letters and papers: he begins to read a letter from my wife.
“But that is a letter from my wife” I tell him.
“Do not worry, monsieur Fouéré, we are bound by professional confidence.”
He does not pursue it in any case; through a sense of propriety maybe, but more because what a job! When my wife writes, you get your values worth in postal costs. A handwriting that overlaps, eight or ten pages, little bits added crosswise on every page! He would be totally confused and there are still piles of documents, papers, press cuttings: it could easily take until tomorrow. Having missed my flight I am in no hurry myself.
The contents of my briefcase, suitcase and desk have been gone through: two or three letters that Le Scoul is bothered about are seized. Now they start on the files: some books are paged through, all the empty cardboard boxes opened, the pictures looked behind, in the vases, the tureen, all cupboards searched. But there are so many files, so many!
“There is no end to it!” says Le Scoul, overwhelmed.
“Certainly not: as there is also the cellar should you wish to see it, full of newspapers, correspondence and files , and there are more of them in the office, across the landing, of l’Avenir de la Bretagne that just moved back in there yesterday.”
“But you also have a garage and even a residence in Evran,” says Besnier, who had been conscientiously going through the file of all the renovations I have had done there over the past three years.
“We will have to go there,” says Le Scoul: “is that all you have?”
“No, there is also Dublin and Cleggan, where there are still more books and papers, and around twenty hectares in Evran.”
“Do not worry; I will certainly not be going to Dublin.”
“What a pity: I would have been happy to act as your guide: the country is very beautiful and is well worth a visit. Also it would give me the opportunity of catching that plane you caused me to miss!”
“You are really very clever, monsieur Fouéré.”
“No more than you are, monsieur Le Scoul.”
Recors – always him, he will go far as he is very methodical, – digs out a thick file from the ‘Cour de Surete de l‘Etat’, or Special State Courts – the complete prosecutor’s charges in the trial of the 1972 F.L.B.
“How come you are in possession of this?”asks Le Scoul.
”I am a journalist, and as you know, all journalists have sources of information that they are not obliged to divulge. If you are interested, I also have practically all the police cross-examinations for the 1969 F.L.B. affair. Were you not also involved in it?”
Le Scoul thought for a minute.
“You are very interested in the F.L.B.?”
“Of course. In Brittany no one can be disinterested in it; and I fully intend writing the history of the F.L.B. some day. I am gathering all the information I can. I have other files on the subject in Ireland.”
“We will confiscate this one at least,” replied Le Scoul.
“And this one also,” said Recors, who has just unearthed an old political proposal and organisation chart of the F.L.B. that had come from Yann Goulet.
Catastrophy! Obviously these gentlemen believe that this is a document of utmost importance. I have a great deal of respect for Yann Goulet. He is a courageous and selfless activist. His liking for panache and heroic postures that go hand in hand with his artistic temperament does not erase his qualities. “Where Yann is concerned,” said one of our friends, “everything must be done in a heroic manner”. But it is not simply a posture: he did in fact behave heroically during the war, and has the rare distinction, amongst the Breton nationalists at the time, of having been arrested by the Germans and imprisoned for several months during the German occupation. He remained under sentence of death for his Breton actions until it lapsed with the statute of limitations. He was, more than anyone else, unjustly dragged through the mud, including even by members of the Breton movement, ever ready to believe that they are adopting a ‘political’ stance, even though inept, by playing their enemy’s game. Inconsolable after the breaking up of the 1969 F.L.B., and eager to be of service, having taken on the role of its foreign spokesperson from Ireland where he resides, he tried on several occasions to set up another F.L.B. Very few, of the Breton activists of any importance, will not have received numerous projects, plans, and organisation charts, before he decided to stop a few years ago. He is passionate on the subject of illegal action, having studied it extensively and witnessed it at close quarters through his I.R.A. contacts. If he gets involved he will die rather than reveal anything: but he wants the whole world to know that he is involved!
“This project of Goulet’s is actually quite good,” Le Scoul told me later.
I did not reply that I had never doubted it, but only that I had not had the time or the desire to study it, and that obviously it had not been put into practice nor followed up. In any case, I do not believe in projects and plans on paper and prefer empiricism.
“How did you come by these Goulet documents?”
“I simply received them by post, exactly the same as with the F.L.B. communiqués, of which you will find a small package from the same source, dated January 1974, still in their original envelopes, addressed to me as director of ‘L’Avenir de La Bretagne’.”
Le Scoul did not appear convinced
-“We will need an explanation later.”
It is evident that policemen are the victims of character deformation resulting from their work, in that the simplest of explanations are deemed suspicious, and seeking dark motives in the most normal of things. The possession of any document does not imply ipso facto belonging to the organisation that sent it. But their zeal has to be justified. I am careful not to tell my interrogators that they may also find the organisation charts of the O.L.P. , the I.R.A., part of the E.T.A. – they could consider that I am an Arab captain, a Jewish spy, a major in the I.R.A., an agent of the C.I.A. and who knows what else, in their reluctance to simply accept my role as a journalist and writer needing numerous archives!
The most difficult task for Le Scoul and his assistants is in deciphering my bad writing. There are numerous outlines of talks and lectures for conferences – I never write the full text but simply put down on paper a more or less detailed outline – part of the ‘L’Europe aux Cent Drapeaux’ manuscript, and others also! What sense can anyone make of all that! Each one could be a speech for the F.L.B. or a heroic exhortation to the A.R.B. fighters, meeting for their great summer manoeuvres, camouflaged or not as S.A.V. activists, which the police believed when the training of the activists was held in Spezet in January 1974! The police and the prefectures’ forces in Brittany, external forces in the service of the powers in office, always have a tendency to see conspiracies and enemies everywhere. Their lives proceed along certain structures, standards and rules made to serve the State’s domination. Thus anything outside the routine and regimentation of citizens, which they supposedly supervise and watch over, is deemed to be criminal and suspect. What a ridiculous idea to become a Breton activist! There are no provisions for that in the manual. We must therefore all belong to the F.L.B. – What else could we be? It is obvious: Breton = F.L.B.
Le Scoul pauses to examine one of these outlines in my bad writing:
“That one,” I told him after examining it,“is the outline of the talk I was to give on French television alongside Guy Heraud, when he presented his candidacy for the recent Presidential elections.”
He does not pursue the subject and decides to abandon any further search of my mass of manuscripts. Obviously the discovery of Goulet’s organisation chart is a relief: it would have been ridiculous for him to return empty handed, and he had certainly received instructions to find something. Nonetheless, this new ‘Ponia’ police operation is likely to become ridiculous!
I hereby advise everyone that next time, out of charity for these police civil servants who are made to sweat profusely in order to uncover imaginary plots, that I will leave somewhere a complete plan of the A.R.B.’s field of operation – it is actually somewhere around Larzac in liaison with the I.R.A. commandos of the British army training there – an inventory of their stock of light artillery, of their armoured vehicles and of their heavy artillery, a detailed record of their numbers, a confidential list, in triplicate, of their secret agents that riddle the French police, the C.R.S. and services of the prefectures. I will include the nomination of M.Recors, who kindly confirmed my appointment as Captain conferred on me by J.P.Dorian, as a brigade commander no less, and Le Scoul sub prefect of police, since I can not nominate him prefect as there is already one … be quiet… it is a secret!
Everything now begins to move faster: Recors has finished looking behind all the pictures on the walls. Being a tidy man, he has even replaced one of the nails that had come loose.
“ What are you looking for behind the pictures?” I asked him.
“Documents,” he briefly replied, “stuck on with selotape.”
I must admit I had never thought of that. Next time I will hide the list of the A.R.B.’s equipment, stuck – with selotape – behind the portrait of my maternal great grandfather, Dr.Quéré who, in 1880, was the first Republican councillor general for the Callac area. I have written his name on the back of the picture to avoid any danger of a mistake. The reason I have chosen that picture is because that one has been forgotten and has not been checked: it is therefore a safe hiding place. The Ministry of the Interior should take note: no need to overwork his civil servants, when the solution is within reach … or the picture.
We pass on to the office of l’Avenir de la Bretagne. I point out to them that this is where some of the S.A.V. meetings were held and that it is therefore a semi-public venue. On hearing this, they seem to lose interest in it: Yet there are many drawers and files and the complete card index which I draw their attention to.
“Monsieur”, remarks Le Scoul with an air of disgust, “we are not the Special Branch. We are the Criminal Investigation Department and have no dealings with politics. Card indexes are not what we are looking for”.
Amazing! Except that the Special Branch already has that card index: all it needs is for the newspaper to be stopped one day at the Post Office. But I do understand that to be in the Special Branch is the worst of jobs; to be one of them is to incur the contempt, not only of all honest people, but also of all the other police services. I had been told about it but did not believe it. A warning therefore to those unfortunate ones who are placed in this service, which in any case can only be a disgrace in all democratic countries, as all political police are incompatible with a system of freedom. Respect for human rights cannot prevail in a country where political police are tolerated.
If, my Breton friends, you therefore one day wish to hide anything compromising, organisation chart of the S.S.(Social Security of course), speeches to the ex-servicemen, classes in politics or philosophy – as these also are suspect – , do not leave them at home. Leave them in a public place, well covered in dust, a covered parking, the cellars of the prefecture, the archives section of the tax offices, the town library! No one will ever search for them there, and anyone can have left them there – and from time to time you will be able to go and consult them at your leisure.
It is getting late: night is falling. These gentlemen appear to have had enough: they have been on the go for the past three days. Before leaving the office of l’Avenir, they take typescript samples of the two typewriters – even though they do not actually belong to me. We move next to the garage. The car is full of parcels, blankets etc … which I had planned to drop off in Evran on my next visit in a few weeks. It is going to take quite some time if it all has to be searched and opened up. They give up after a cursory search. In a corner a couple of plastic bottles …
– “It is plastic,” I tell Le Scoul,”but with a QUE and not a C,” I add after a pause. (Translator’s note- plastiQUE is plastic, but plastic is plastic explosive).
It appears to bother him none the less.
“They are bottles of acid for my battery, but bombs could obviously be made with it!”
After some thought, he decides not to insist. It is true that anyone can get them from the garage nearby. In any case it is impossible to prevent those that want to make bombs from making them: I was told that from potassium chlorate, sugar, nitric agricultural fertilizers, domestic heating oil and gas bottles excellent ones can be made (an Irish tip). Why has Ponia, or Marcellin before him, not forbidden the sale of all these dangerous products? Another way would be to issue a special identity card to all Bretons, except the reliable ‘collabos’(collaborators), or oblige them to wear a ‘triskell’ in their buttonholes, and forbid the sale of all these dangerous products to all those bearing these marks of identification – Why not? It would be an original method of recognising us all. What bothers the French police most of all is that since the Bretons stopped wearing their traditional hats and costumes, it is very difficult at a glance to distinguish them from the French. They could possibly be encouraged, for patriotic reasons, to have the letters, B.Z.H. sewn on a pocket of their jackets? It would need the incentive of an important bonus to do so, of course. Keep this to yourselves, but it would prompt a number of French, with the public spirit that characterises them, to declare they are Breton. As a result everyone would be from the F.L.B., including probably M.Le Scoul!
Night has now fallen. Departure for Evran. I take a suitcase with some clothing and other essentials. Sultan IV truck 22 is the name of the car I am in. There must be at least another 21 cars on the road keeping the headquarters in Rennes up to date of their movements by radio. Who can the Sultan be? Probably Ponia? Is he not already a Prince of Poland? He may even have a harem, it is said that his boss has one. And is the latter not a descendant of Louis XV? With all these descendants of Princes and Kings one never knows, especially, as J.P. Dorian says – the ‘captain’ is going through my mind -, that since then they have not stopped descending. This comes from him, not from me! I do not wish to exacerbate my case!
Evran is the birthplace of my father’s family, which can be traced back to the XVII century. Generations of Fouérés have cultivated the land that stretches around the modest farmhouse that I have restored, with its main door going back to that period. The Evran treaty, concluded between Blois and Montfort during the war of Brittany’s succession was signed on a small hill, in a field that overlooks one of mine. It has been called ‘La Butte de la Justice’ (the hillock of Justice) ever since. As we drove along towards Evran, I thought of all the Breton protesters and resistance fighters for Independence and Autonomy with their birthplace in these lands between Ille and Rance. The La Chalotais, Botherel, La Rouerie, Guyomarais, Chateaubriand and so many more. They all suffered prison, exile and worse for their country. From them to us, even though the times and methods differ, the tradition continues uninterrupted. It must not be allowed to die out. The persecutions, repressions, oppressive weight of state mechanism that sets them in motion, always have the same aspect: they have not changed.
We penetrate deep into the lands. Through the open window the good scent of autumn and humus freshly turned over.
“ We would never have found it if you had not shown us the way.”
“ It is a pleasure, Messieurs.”
The little farm appears around a bend. We go inside. Le Scoul settles himself behind my desk with his machine, and is lost in the administrative paperwork that accompanies this kind of operation: all the moving about, house searches etc… must be accounted for, hour by hour, minute by minute.
“Here also,” I point out to them, “I have many books and papers: notably all my father’s archives!”
I open cupboards and drawers for them. Besnier and Recors pursue their task, turning over the pictures, searching the ashes in the fireplace, looking in the jugs and carafes, behind the books, giving up on untying the string around the archives. They could still be at it at the end of the week.
All of a sudden another catastrophy! Recors – always him who finds everything – discovers in an old tobacco pot amongst other objects on top of the kitchen units, 3 detonators that I had brought over from Ireland towards the end of 1972, as proven by the date on the envelope they are wrapped in, and which I had since forgotten all about. Le Scoul leaps to his feet. ‘That does it, I thought, I have now surely been upgraded to Colonel’! It is obviously stupid of me: what a bad illegal fighter I would make!
“Why do you have this here,” said Le Scoul; “do you not know that it is illegal?”
“No. I obtained these three detonators perfectly legally in Ireland for work that I was doing on my Lobster Pond. I had thought I would have to dynamite a rock to clear the ground of the room you are standing in, when I started the work. I simply brought these three in my pocket, not for a moment thinking that by doing so I was breaking any law.”
Le Scoul obviously does not believe me: in any case he is not here to believe what he is told, but to fulfil a very precise task, which is to harass as many Breton activists as possible, and therefore to suspect what he is told, helped along by the mind set of his job.
“And if I was to tell you that these detonators were used for explosive attacks?”
“How could that be since they are there, and from as long ago as 1972? Obviously if I had wanted to use them for purposes other than the one I have just told you, they would be gone from there a long time ago!”
I would be hearing again about these unfortunate detonators over the following days.
“That bothers you?” Le Scoul frequently repeated.
“Of course, in view of the interpretation that you have given it, and the context of your search.”
I did not tell him, as he would undoubtedly have taken me for the Minister in charge of Supplies for the F.L.B., that in the course of the past twenty years I had frequently, alone or with one of my workers and armed with a permit from the Irish police, gone with my van to collect gelignite, wicks and detonators that were needed to proceed with our work at the quarry and with the clearing of my pond in Cleggan.
I had forgotten, and I blame myself for not having thought of it, that in Ireland I am considered, although originally a foreigner, as an ordinary citizen with all the rights of free citizens, whilst in France, as far as the State, its ministers, its prefects and its police, are concerned, I am in principle a suspect, dubious and dangerous citizen. The ideas I express, the articles I sign and the books I write are explosive elements in the eyes of these good men, even more so than dynamite. In principle, I do not respect nor accept their laws. In principle I am therefore guilty, and the least of my actions, the least of my movements, even that of treading on my native soil, can be held against me as a crime. That is what the French State calls freedom for all Breton, Basque or Corsican activists: restricted freedom, always provisional and always threatened. The system is such that it encircles us all in a spider’s web of mistrust, suspicion and hostility. It is actually, in essence, so anti-democratic after two centuries of administrative and police centralism that as far as the French police and administration are concerned, every citizen is potentially guilty: he is considered as being permanently in breach of the law. There are actually so many laws, rules, decrees and orders that, no matter what one says or does, there is always one being violated. In other words, one is only free and spotless when in a prison like the one I am in at present: there at least the State does not take its eyes off you. It isolates you from the outside world, removes you from the community of the living. Only in this way can it be fairly sure that you will commit nothing against it, nothing that could threaten its power, its dictatorship, its laws and decrees.
On the contrary, in a democratic country, such as Ireland, and such as all the Nordic and Anglo Saxon democracies, you are always considered to be innocent, no matter what your reputation, your acts, your words, even if you have already been at odds with the law. It is not up to you to prove it. Guilt is based on precise and concrete facts, not on presumptions of what you are really like, and not on what the State or its police think of you. Nobody would dream of reproaching you for having detonators in your home, even if you had not obtained them in the normal manner, if it has not been established that you have made use of them for motives considered to be against the law.
Let this be a warning to you, my Breton friends. Do not forget as I did, and I blame myself, because I live most of the time in a free country which is not France, that in principle you are all guilty in the eyes of the French State: you are guilty of being Breton and of knowing it. In principle you are all from the F.L.B., if not the A.R.B., or other sinister organisations whose various logos are plastered over the walls of our towns and villages. Since Brittany was annexed by France there isn’t a Breton that is not simply on bail as, if he wants to serve his country, defend his interests and the rights of his people, if he wants to live, he will in any case inevitably be forced one of these days to oppose the French State.
Here again there is a different concept of freedom. There is one type of freedom for the French, and another, far more restricted, for the Bretons. It is not the same, as in fact they do not enjoy the same rights. The Bretons are not free to have schools in their own language – the French are;to have their own Radio and Television – the French are; to take the necessary measures to stop the emigration of their youth, to find local employment for them – the French can; to decide on what is best for their communities, for the distinctive people they compose – the French have that right. In as much as we do not enjoy a different freedom and rights to that of other French citizens neither do we enjoy the same rights and the same freedom as the French. The Laws are made for them; they are not made for us. Of course, M.Le Scoul and his colleagues care nothing about all this: do they even question it? They are but the wheels of an inexorable machine that slowly, relentlessly pursues the assimilation, integration, uniformity and extinction of Brittany and the Breton people!
Since finding the three detonators that were immediately placed under seal, everything again moves much faster. Obviously ‘something’ had to be found to satisfy Sultan IV.
A quick look in the attic, through the difficult to detect trapdoor that has not escaped Recors, in the garage and the empty house next door. We do not even go up to the first floor, or look under the stack of wood. Next time, that is where I will hide my stock of weapons. Le Scoul goes through the inventory with me of the articles and documents that have been confiscated, and on my request, gives me a receipt. He will go through them again with me over the following days. Truck number 22 heads for Rennes after passing through Becherel in the shadow of Chateau de la Chalotais. It is close to eleven o clock when I arrive at the barracks of the C.R.S. 19. It is then that the dialogue at the beginning of this account takes place.
Having established the exact nature of my situation of ‘gardé a vue’, so called free but not free, placed in solitary confinement, an outrageous abuse of human rights, as is the case with all special courts, contrary to International Conventions, in spite of the fact that the French have signed it, I prepare to lie on the bed and try to spend the least bad night possible. I am brought another sandwich which I supplement with some fruit that I had taken the precaution of bringing. The bed is only relatively clean: no sheets of course; I am brought three brown army blankets; I spread a towel over what passes for a pillow.
“It makes me feel younger,” I told the guard. “I seem to be back in the regiment.”
“You are privileged,” he tells me; “usually those held in custody are given a fold down plank of wood with blankets, and no mattress.”
And yet, a ‘gardé a vue’ is free, since the door is open! That says it all. Freedom is dependent on whether the door is open or closed. Musset had not thought of that when he wrote his play.
I sleep badly: a different bed, the upsets of the day, discomfort and the light that was not switched off in the corridor, with the door, symbol of my freedom, remaining open.
The following day around 8.30, Tuesday 21st October, Le Scoul arrives to collect me again. We go over all the articles confiscated, going through each one. I repeat my explanations of the previous day in order that they can be put in the form of a statement. I warn Le Scoul that considering this form of holding in custody is illegal and contrary to the International Conventions, I refuse to sign anything after twenty four hours have passed, that is to say after 11 o clock of today the 21st of October. We therefore hasten to get the essentials done: these gentlemen seem to consider that as a matter of form it is necessary that I sign at least something. They know that there is no question of them forcing me to do or sign something that I do not wish to do or sign. Laouenan, who, just between us, is not aptly named, as he is probably not funny, told me later that ‘it was normal in view of my age that they should have more regard for me than for a younger person’.
I am also informed that after twenty four hours, I have the right to request to be examined by a doctor, and that tomorrow before 11 o’ clock, I will be called to appear before a magistrate from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the State’s Special Courts, who is to decide on whether to extend the ‘garde a vue’ beyond forty eight hours. My attention is drawn to the fact that the length of interrogations and rest periods are listed in the official register for ‘garde a vue’. Clearly, the ‘Petit guide du garde a vue’,(Tr.note – little guidebook), that we published is of some use.
Yet, that ‘Petit guide du garde a vue’, which I advise all Breton militants without exception to consider as their bible where the behaviour to follow when facing police interrogation is concerned, is on the list of articles placed under seal and confiscated from my home.
“You have copies of these all over the place,” Le Scoul tells me.
“Is it against your law to have several copies?”
Does the degree of guilt depend on the number of copies of a leaflet or book that is in your home and is not pleasing to those in power? Or is it because the object of the leaflet is to assist you in defending yourself against their inquisitions? In that case why not put behind bars all the accountants and forbid all the guides for dealing with tax, whose purpose is obviously to help you pay as little as possible to the State, if not to lie and deceive them ?
“It is its content that shocks me,” says Le Scoul. “I read: violence, torture, ill-treatment. None of that exists here. You should at least revise the text.”
I do acknowledge that since I have been ‘gardé a vue’ I have seen no trace of any of this on a physical level. I strictly reserve my judgement on the mental level.
“Who is to say,” I add, “that these methods already used in various totalitarian states, whether their regime is left or right wing, may not one day be used in France if it continues to multiply unlawful acts such as the holding in custody for prolonged periods, and political operations such as this one, whose repressive and intimidating character cannot be denied?”
“In that case I will no longer be here and our duties will be withdrawn.”
“I sincerely hope so, for your sake as well as for that of your future victims.”
In the course of our official conversations Le Scoul asked me if I knew the meaning of his name in French. I acknowledged my ignorance, probably owing to my insufficient knowledge of Breton.
“It means bird of prey,” he told me, “sea bird of prey.”
Gosh, I thought! Fortunately he is not a solicitor, or a stockbroker, or … a cannibal, but just a plain policeman. It is worrying all the same as he informed me that his speciality, contrary to what one would think, was not the Breton movement. For him that was only a hobby: it has to be acknowledged that he must have plenty of practice and knows it well. His main responsibility, he tells me, is in suppressing ‘crimes of blood’. That certainly corresponds more with the French translation of his name! About a week later I found, with some help as I am not clever enough, the exact meaning of the word. Ar Skoul in French: Labbe – not l’abbé (tr.note – an ecclesiastical term) Le Breton – un Labbe. In ornithological terms;Stercorarius Skua. I read the following: ‘Sea bird of prey. Dives onto its congener, bleeds them, swallows glutinously the food he tears away from their beaks, and frequently kills the unfortunate ones that he has despoiled…’. It gives you the shivers! At least in appearance, Le Skoul is not as fierce but one wonders what type of ancester all the Le Skouls can have had, he must at least have been a fearsome wrecker!
Nonetheless over the following days I was able to verify that the advice given in that little guide is very relevant: certainly for a ‘gardé a vue’, but also for all political activists who, due to their activity, may one day have dealings with the political or judiciary police. Is not everyone in Brittany for the F.L.B., according to them? Even though there may be no physical violence, the mental intimidation, promises and threats, appealing to sentiments, references to families and their distressed conditions, the offers of collaboration with the police services, are all common practice. Some who were held in custody at the same time as I was and others, who were charged, have confirmed this.
In short, all methods are used to trap you, to make you admit what the police suggest, what you have done as much as what you have not done: methods differ according to individuals, those interrogating and those interrogated, The sensitive, the sentimental, the fearful and those with weak characters are in an obvious state of inferiority. These more so, but also all the others, should from now on, as advised by the Petit Guide, refuse to answer. Nobody is bound by it, apart from the obligation of stating an identity. That is the only wise behaviour to follow. One must be aware of the infinite virtue of silence.
André Geoffroy, Yann Goulet, Yann L’Haridon, Ange Peresse and others who were ‘tough’ ones for police services at the time of the P.N.B., having been arrested and imprisoned numerous times before and during the German occupation, a time when the services were much harder than today, have since then frequently confided that one had to ‘go into a trance’. Become detached from the present, refuse to live in the present minute or hour, remain impassive; endure humiliations, threats and blows without any reaction, not to be taken in by kindnesses or smooth words any more than by the loosing of temper, be convinced that it is all a type of nightmare film that will end soon, getting rid of the ‘actors’ fidgeting about before you on their typewriters.
This training of your will, and control over your nerves, should be cultivated by all Breton nationalist and autonomist activists, as well as by all revolutionary activists: they can be fairly certain that at some stage or another of their activist existence, they will be confronted with this kind of situation: as it is probable the struggle will become more difficult.
None of the Breton parties and groups of today, attach enough importance to all this. Instead of dwelling on sterile ideological talks and discussions, as there are not umpteen ways of splitting hairs, they should substitute the study of concrete situations and the mystique of action. Ideology always divides. Action alone unites, on condition it is with the knowledge of what is being fought for. The simplicity, clarity and specificity of the goal pursued are therefore essential. Where we are concerned, the goal is simple, clear, concrete: freedom for Brittany and the Breton people, the control of their destiny, national freedom in short, without which no other freedom, whether social economic or cultural is, nor will be, possible. Aside from that there are only hazy considerations, endless quibbling, and inaccessible prospects, stirred up divisions, simple conformity of ideologies and debates in fashion. To go along with these shortcomings, is not only to demonstrate a lack of originality, of personality and courage, but it is also to become a slave and dependant on a purely French intellectual malady that the French State administers in its schools, its universities and its mass-media, which is a mind-set: an intellectual and spiritual distortion. This distortion hardly affects the people of Northern Europe that we belong to, or the traditions that we should resolutely subscribe to. The French State is agreeable to our discussions: what it does not want is that we fight against them. Our interests are the reverse of this. Brittany and its people will never be free if we do not fight for them – with all the means at our disposal.
During the following interrogations, and in spite of the fact that I had now refused to sign any further reports, they kept going back over the same facts and the same old things, labouring through the texts, arguing over words, over full stops and comas, the quality and the paper of the envelope containing Goulet’s organisation chart:
“Was it posted or not?”
“If it had not, it could only have been passed on to me in Ireland and would therefore not be in Saint Brieuc.”
“And this correspondence with Loquet, Puillandre, Mordrel, Le Maho?”
“They are all friends.”
“Is what you are saying to them in plain language really what you want to say to them? Is there not some hidden meaning to your words? If you agree with Loquet it means that you are at least morally a party to this?”
“I do not have to deny any of my friendships nor any of the terms of solidarity that I have used.”
There is no end to it. They try to make you contradict yourself, make you say something other than what you have said. I finally complain about all the same old things and the weariness this causes.
“We do have to ask you some questions, Monsieur Fouéré,” Besnier gently replies.
“But why always the same ones?”
In spite of all this, I only lost my temper once: when Le Scoul suggested that I had wanted to escape to Ireland, which it is true could be supposed by everyone, since I had been detained five minutes before catching the plane. I angrily shoved my ticket under his nose: a return excursion ticket that had been booked before my departure from Dublin.
“If I was to leave every time you launch these stupid police operations in Brittany, I may as well not bother coming here: you do one nearly every month, for no valid reason or justification other than to intimidate or discredit the Breton activists. All this is really not acceptable.”
“I should be able to make remarks to you without you losing your temper,” said Le Scouf, “I do not lose my temper at your remarks.”
I had to admit this was true and apologised for my outburst. Nonetheless I asked for a Doctor, complaining of headaches, probably due to the strain and the lack of fresh air: I am not used to being enclosed in an office any more, and I miss the offshore winds. I also ask to see an eye specialist, as I have a spot in my field of vision. All this is granted without any difficulty.
Tuesday night: feeling tired I sleep better. But family worries, the impossibility of complying with the various obligations and meetings I had made for this week in Wales and in Ireland, and the preoccupations regarding my business in Ireland keep me awake for a long time. I may be too late to start the winter campaign, whose success is necessary for the financial equilibrium of the business!
I call on the Irish philosophy, ‘It could be much worse’, I tell myself. This is a traditional saying that I have often heard: it is a deeply wise one. The Irish readily use it whenever they are in trouble. You have been injured in a car accident: ‘It could be much worse: you could have been killed!’ You have lost an eye: ‘It could be much worse: you could have lost the two!’ It could be worse all right. Luckily since a few weeks I have my eldest son Jean over there, back from Yemen where he was working for the F.A.O., a tall calm and stable young man. He will know how to cope and hold the fort during my absence. If he was called away, my youngest son Erwan, whose devotion to people and to the interests of the family is boundless, could also take special leave for personal reasons. Indeed it could be much worse!
What a boundless comfort it is to have strong sons and to know they can be relied on, no matter what happens. Formed by the exile that my Breton action thirty years ago had forced on me, strengthened by the hardships of difficult days, accustomed by the harshness of the extreme west of Ireland to living on our own resources, strong links were formed between us. We have reconstituted a true Celtic ‘clan’. I lovingly recall them all, my wife who has already suffered similar hardships from my political action during even more difficult times, my first grandson just born to my daughter Benig and Michael, my first born in a far off land – the gentle and efficient Rozenn , Olwen at present searching for traces of the Vikings in the excavations taking place in old Dublin, the soon to be born baby in the home of Jean and Daniele.
I must snap out of this, as I will become too emotional: before falling asleep, I settle down as best as I can to write on my knees in my book the essential instructions for the prices and the markets of the coming weeks, for the most urgent of the work in hand – a dreamless sleep.
Le Scoul had informed me that this morning, Wednesday 22nd, he wished to make ‘certain facts’ known to me, and would probably have to confront me with another person. Thus, after eight o’ clock, we began once again the tedious interrogation and Le Scoul asked me if I knew l’Abbé Le Breton.
“Who doesn’t, I said, ever since the active part he took in defence of the imprisoned activists from previous F.L.B. affairs.”
“When did you see him last?”
“I cannot remember exactly as I see a lot of people. I can tell you however that he came to see me in Ireland. It must have been during the summer of 1973,” I added after searching my memory, “the New Zealand Flaks, hedges of exotic plants that I have planted around my house as a windbreaker from the sea breeze, only flower every second year: they flowered this summer: they were in flower when the Abbé came to see me ; we spoke of them.”
It has to be said that the rector of Treverec and Gommenec’h is a very colourful character. He has the soul of both a student and a conspirator. Plotting keeps his spirits young, although he is over sixty. He is incredibly active, constantly coming up with proposals, projects, meetings, conferences, many quickly forgotten owing to lack of follow up. He loves playing tricks on the police, giving them the run around, and they keep a close watch on him since the time he admitted having assisted the F.L.B.3 network – I have to number them, as it is no longer possible to keep track of how many there are, probably as many as the groups that claim to be one of them – a network whose activists stood trial before the State Security Court in October 1972. Also since the time he was arrested in Rennes leading a demonstration of young Breton activists. He is a good speaker: an excellent orator. After F.L.B.1 (the ancestor of all the others), in 1969, he took part in a large meeting in Paris alongside R.P. Cardonnel, that red, or black, Dominican, also J.L. Vigier, then at odds with the communist party, together with other left wing activists. His sermons are excellent, although at times they are over the heads of his parishioners, which makes them seem rather too long to them. I remember the theme of one of them, a few years ago in the church of Gommenec’h, one Sunday when I went there to hear Mass and to visit him: ‘No State is good, no State is just, no State is Christian’.
“Are you aware,” continued Le Scoul searching for effect, “that M.Le Breton refers to you as being the supreme leader of the F.L.B. – A.R.B.?”
“Refers to me as what?” I am ‘zebedennet’, which means flabbergasted.
I am not Captain, nor Colonel, but at least General in charge, if not Marshal! That lovely little baton covered in midnight blue velvet speckled with gold stars that I thought looked so pretty on my picture books when I was young! The one that Foch and Petain held in their hands when I saw them parading in Paris at the head of the survivors of the great slaughter, a sight so fascinating to my young eyes that I had an accident and wet my pants! Move over Bonaparte, Augereau, Davout and Massena, move over Chaban-Delmas, Corni something Molinier, Roll Tanguy and others, who during the time of the French Resistance wondered each morning how many stripes they could put on their sleeves that day, with the rapidity of promotions! Admittedly it was not by selection! Notice to those interested: Promotion is even faster in the Breton Resistance!, Captain Monday: Colonel Tuesday, now on Wednesday I find I am General in charge! A dazzling career!
“I know that my friend l’Abbé has plenty of imagination and that he likes conspiracies,” I told Le Scoul, “but he should know at least that I have not dealt with the F.L.B. since 1969! Nevertheless I have no problem in facing him.”
I was given to understand, in veiled terms, that this ‘opinion’ that Le Breton had of me, was practically the only reason for my arrest. True or false: but I know that in any case they were on the lookout for the first possible pretext to try and ‘nab’ me, and make me shut up by intimidating me. After all this time, these gentlemen should know me better!
Thus in France, a country that claims to be democratic and plays that role on the international scene, anyone can be arrested purely on an opinion expressed by someone else: he can be isolated and removed from the outside world, with no possibility of communicating with his family or a lawyer, for a period of six days, the legal duration of a ‘garde a vue’ for cases that are considered to fall under the State Security Court! Purely on the declaration of one person, with no obligation on that person to furnish concrete proof of their affirmation, the person arrested can be compromised, wronged and his work and business ruined! What has become of us? On what arbitrary and totalitarian slope has this bourgeois, hypocritical and underhand republic, claiming to be liberal, committed itself to? The public ministry may as well be replaced by the Special Branch, the gossips and the wardens.
It is no longer just the Bretons but also the French who are out on bail. Anyone can be arrested on inexistent evidence, gossip, political police and prefects’ reports, and on hearsay, anywhere and anytime. The scandal is plain for all to see! How can the French not realise such a glaringly obvious situation? It is true that De Gaulle said all the French were bovine! That is the only explanation for this. What a godsend for those in power! And amongst the cattle there are no doubt quite a few sheep!
The office, where the meeting with L’Abbé Le Breton was to take place, was crowded: one could hardly move. Was I or was I not the General in charge? All the Inspectors from the P.J. or Police Judiciaire (Criminal Investigation Dept.) and from the D.S.T. (Internal State Security Dept.), had once again been inconsiderately launched by Ponia, furious at his failure in Corsica, and were now on the lookout in search of an invisible F.L.B., playing hide and seek with them for years. Are they chasing the myth and or the reality?
Our meeting was cordial. Aimé Le Breton readily admitted that what he had said was simply an opinion, not based on fact, and that this opinion relied on the opinions of certain Breton activists, in particular of those who thought I was too right wing or not left wing enough. As if I ever asked myself that question! I am who I am and that is enough for me! I refuse to bow to that French habit of labelling. The first revolution to be waged should be to restore the meaning of words. `The dupery of words is a preparation for the misleading of the spirit’, Pierre Gaxotte wisely wrote. How many of the so called left wingers in France are nothing but utter reactionaries! And in any case, as Malraux said, since there are no more right-wingers it is hard to see where exactly the leftwing position can be. The struggle we are waging is unclassifiable in French political terms: it is what it is, just as I am what I am.
“You know very well, Monsieur l’Abbé,” I added, “that you are also considered in your area to be the ‘leader’ of the F.L.B., even if you are not. Every well known Breton activist is, according to public opinion, an F.L.B. just as in the old days he was a Breiz Atao. All the more reason in the case of a well known personality like yourself. As far as I am concerned,” I added for the benefit of the inspectors, “I cannot be held responsible for the opinion that others may have of me. Since returning from my forced exile I have been saddled with every conceivable label: it would have been surprising if that last one had not been added also. Just before the War, I was President of the Breton Students and of Ar Brezoneg er Skol (Breton in the schools), Vice-President of the Breton Regionalist Union and of the Federation of Breton Societies in the Paris region – I have to smile on remembering that it was thanks to this last title that I had the task of taking out and about the elected Duchess of the Bretons in Paris: it was not unpleasant as there were some very pretty ones; do not think though that this is where I learnt to ride a horse: it was the Duchess on the horse, not I! – I was also Director of the daily newspapers ‘La Bretagne’ and ‘La Dépêche de Brest’, Secretary general of the ‘Comité Consultatif de Bretagne’ and so on… I have certainly been all of those: but since I took up Breton activism again about twenty years ago, the rumours have not failed to circulate – I had been condemned to death – I was the leader of the Breton National Party – I had been Director of the journal ‘L’Heure Bretonne’ – also leader of the terrorist organisation ‘Gwenn Ha Du’, even member of the Formation Perrot, etc.. . all of which I have never been. All this apart, the fact is that I am one of the founders of the M.O.B.(Mouvement for the Organisation of Brittany), Director of the journal ‘L’Avenir de la Bretagne’, and one of the leaders of the Breton Party S.A.V.(Strollad Ar Vro – Party for the nation), etc… Probably also the most well known Breton leader in Europe today, whose Breton action already spans nearly forty years, I am once again a victim of my legend. Try and make sense out all this! Another label more or less does not make much difference. In any case this one, as Monsieur L’Abbé has said, is simply based on hearsay.”
The assembly is disappointed: It would have been so nice to satisfy Monsieur the Prosecutor for the State Security Court! This disappointment was in fact expected :
“I noticed that the Abbé had a lot of respect for you,” Le Scoul, said as he accompanied me back.
“But I also have respect for him, Monsieur Le Scoul.”
“Believe me: he will continue to dig you in deeper during the inquiry.”
“That is his business, and in any case I will defend myself: but it will never become a reason for me to dig him in as you so elegantly put it.”
Le Scoul did not pursue the matter.
That same day, before eleven o clock, I appeared before Ribière, one of two assistants for Director of Public Prosecution Jonquière, the Director of Public Prosecution for the State Security Court. White hair swept back, blue suit, eczema from his collar, distinguished, respectable – he looks it at least, but my grandmother repeatedly warned me that the habit did not make a monk: she had read Balzac. He informs me that my garde à vue is being extended beyond the forty eight hours and that I will therefore continue to be held in custody.
“In that case, Monsieur, I will ask you for permission to post this letter I have prepared, whose contents you may read: it is strictly an urgent business letter in order to pass on instructions for the running of my business, to ensure it will not suffer too much from my unforeseen absence.”
“I do not think I can give this permission: you understand that if there are figures, prices etc … these could be a code!”
“In that case can I see a lawyer?”
“No, because you have not been charged, but only held in custody since two days. In any case your garde à vue will come to an end like everyone else’s, irrespective of the date of your arrest, six full days after the beginning of the police operation. In this case, it will come to an end Friday morning at six o clock. You will therefore be advised by tomorrow evening Thursday at the latest.”
Once again I am flabbergasted. A person held in custody has less rights that a person who is charged: and he can be held in secret for six days: a flagrantly illegal and unjust procedure. And this code! What a sinister joke! A code – my blue lobsters and my red crayfish, crawling and swimming around at this moment, carefree, in the clear waters of my pond in Ireland: A code! I have to laugh.
After all, Mr. Prosecutor is possibly right! In this letter I write about clawless lobsters, the ones that Breton fishermen call ‘bottles’. These closely resemble bazookas: long, rectilinear and with no protuberance. Since I am in the Breton army I should display some imagination: not very common in French military circles, we must therefore know how to outdo them. To carry on the same reasoning, a lobster with one claw could signify a Lebel or Mauser; with two claws an automatic weapon: a red crayfish gelignite (in Ireland gelignite is pink), plastic explosive or tolamite, depending on its size? Mr.Prosecutor is right: in these days of industrial espionage one can never be too careful. I am now loyally warning him that from now on I will use a code to indicate my lobsters and crayfish: 100 bazookas will mean a 100 kilos of clawless lobsters, 300 Mausers 300 kilos of lobsters with one claw, 200 Sten 200 kilos of large lobsters, 600 bread rolls will mean 600 kilos of crayfish each weighing 500 to 1000 grams, etc … I also want to warn him that I will leave letters of this nature conspicuously in my commercial files, in order that Le Scoul, Besnier, Recors and others will not have too much trouble finding them. He will know therefore that this will be harmless commercial correspondence, which could in no way be held against me. I will hide the key to this code behind a picture, with sticky tape, in order that he at least will be able to decipher it all. I only keep secrets from my commercial competitors, not from the State Security Court. Agreed?
All of this helps me to pass the time: I have to laugh inwardly at the Prosecutor’s code! The afternoon of that Wednesday is calm and gives me an opportunity to get to know Dr. Gourvés, tall young man with a blond beard who, unknown to me, has been my neighbour since yesterday. Since he was arrested, he has gone on a hunger and thirst strike to protest against his second garde à vue. Arrested on Saturday at first light, he was released on Sunday, and then arrested again on Tuesday. What are they thinking of? These French are mad, Obelix would have said. Gourvés, a Doctor from Landela, had already been arrested in 1972 and had spent six months in La Santé prison, before appearing before the State Security Court.
Late afternoon of that same day, I heard a friendly voice shouting as he passed by my open door:
It is Kaou Puillandre, an electrician from Châteauneuf-du-Faou, who had already been arrested in January, then released on controlled bail after two months imprisonment in La Santé. Le Scoul had mentioned him to me: it bothers him that I know all the ‘bad boys’ accused of being from the F.L.B.
“Where many of them are concerned, it is the legal actions against them that have brought them to my notice,” I had replied. “As far as Kaou is concerned it is different: I know him from the time of the M.O.B. Ten years ago, he came to my assistance as witness in the trial for defamation that I had brought against the French Communist Party before the court in Morlaix.”
“The press claimed he had been arrested because electric timer switches, similar to those used for an attack in Brest, had been found at his place,” Le Scoul told me. “But that is absolutely false: he was arrested because he did not have one.”
“Ah! Was he supposed to have some?”
“Yes, but he was short one.”
“But these things cannot be lost?”
Le Scoul does not reply – it is therefore suspicious for a Breton to have electrical time switches at his home, even though he is an electrician by trade. But it is equally suspicious if he does not have them. There is really no point worrying about it: all Breton electricians are from the F.L.B., C.Q.F.D.(Ce qu’il fallait démontrer – quod erat demonstrandum – what should be shown). What are they waiting for to arrest them all? Suggestion to the Minister of the Economy: By putting all Breton tradesmen in La Santé, others in camps under surveillance, they could be replaced by Arabs, Pieds-Noirs from Algeria, and people from Paris – an original and infallible method of solving, in one go, the problem of unemployment!
The following morning, Kaou was able to tell me, as surveillance had been slackened and we were able to talk to each other from the doorway of our open doors, he had been brought in to be confronted by a person he did not know, who later turned out to be Jean Lalluyaux from Lorient, an ex member of F.L.B.1. It also came to light that the latter and his family had been the objects of unacceptable pressure and intimidation by the police services. Be that as it may, Lalluyaux thought he recognised Kaou, from a photo in a newspaper (It must have been l’Avenir – note: tell the editors not to publish any more photos of activists but to replace them with photos of policemen), as being the unknown person who had brought him a packet of explosives for an attack attributed to the F.L.B. in Lorient, a failed attack as it happens. Nonetheless Lalluyaux had not recognised him at the confrontation and Kaou was to be released on Thursday afternoon.
If it is not you, it is your brother, or else one of your family, was the conclusion the interrogators, who know their classics, came to. But we were nonetheless surprised a few days later to see arriving from La Santé, Kaou’s brother Yann, not only arrested but charged even before a confrontation and on the same presumptions. His cheque stubs had seemed very suspicious to Le Scoul: one of them actually said ‘operation Stourm’.
Stourm being a Breton word meaning combat: bagadou stourm: combat section – Had Yann financed a reprisals operation against operation Sultan IV? Out of charity, Yann finally told him that Stourm was the name of his magnificent dog that he had recently brought to the vet!
Anyone can say anything about you: these gentlemen immediately believe it, and if necessary will invent it if you are a Breton activist; there is no need for proof, to be suspected by your concierge or your neighbour is enough. Are not all Bretons a priori from the F.L.B.? and am I not a priori their leader? Give honour where honour is due, Le Scoul had told me. But where in all this are democracy and the protection of the rights of man? Where are individual rights and freedom against the arbitrariness of those in power?
On the Thursday morning I am up early: at eight o clock I have an appointment at Pontchaillou with an eye specialist.
“I spent the afternoon playing nursemaid for you,” Le Scoul told me the day before, “whilst I have many other things to do. I must have phoned at least twenty eye specialists who all offered me appointments in two or three month’s time! I finally found one, a highly qualified professor if you please, who is prepared to see you at eight o clock in the morning.”
I had thanked him for the trouble he had taken. A little tour around the city with Besnier and Recors. Pontchaillou 7th floor, and return to the C.R.S.19 barracks around nine o clock. That same morning I go through to the Criminal Records Office: full face and profile photos, fingerprinting, two or three times over, of all fingers etc…In front of me a list of people held in custody that have gone through before me. I can assure you, Messieurs journalists, that there are far more than thirty, which is the ultra modest figure you put forward: or else they were brought in specially to be photographed! At that rate they must already have all Bretons on their charts. I ask Le Scoul if it is legal to put people, who have not been charged and are simply held in custody, through the Criminal Record Office.
“Yes, he replies, it is a law dating back to 1943.”
1943! What a recommendation for a Gaullist or Giscardian republic! Anything of a repressive nature from the Vichy legislation has been retained, special sections included. But they were careful not to retain the statutory measures that we had managed to obtain from this same government for the teaching of the Breton language and history in the schools. What am I saying! They have retained a much older repressive legislation: was I not refused the renewal of my passport because I was ‘thought’ to be dangerous to public security? And this was according to a decree of the National Convention of 1793, of a Jurisconsult of the Directorate, and a ruling of the autocratic Empire of 1863! All of them periods of dictatorships and of outrageous power exercised by the State. Very convenient for those in power: our republic cancels nothing, apart from what can inconvenience the government, even if what it retains, is contrary to the Rights of Man in a modern democracy. It continues to systematically apply all the laws, decrees and rulings that reinforce its power, even if these go back to the old regime. At that rate, it is obvious that all French citizens, not to mention the Bretons, are automatically and inevitably always in breach of some law, if it pleases the State to unearth it.
No matter who we are therefore, we are all on bail, even more so if we are Breton, Basques, Corsican or Alsatian. Proudhon had already spoken of it: ‘The Jacobin Republic has made democracy impossible in France and freedom illusory’. No doubt that is what Giscard calls an advanced liberal society: advanced, certainly: it is so much so that it stinks.
Late afternoon on Thursday, Le Scoul informs me that I will be transferred to Paris.
“It will be a great trial, I told him: for once we will be able to explain the situation to a worthwhile forum!”
“You remind me of Pierre Lemoine,” he replied, “who already told me this in 1969. But who says there will be a trial?”
Photo taken on the occasion of a press conference held on 22nd April 1969 after the release of Pierre Lemoine. From left to right Youen Craff, Cadorel, Le Blarec, Youen Yaouank, Orvoen, Pierre Lemoine, Le Mée and Preis.
Pierre Lemoine it is true, in spite of his fragile health frequently causing his family much anxiety, was imprisoned for six months with other activists, and there had been no trial then, the administration in power at the time having backed out when confronted with the scandal a trial would have provoked. I do not let on to Le Scoul that I really hoped for a trial, and that this time those in power would do what could only be a political mistake for them: fortunately they are capable of it. Prince and President in the lead, they are becoming increasingly stupid: we therefore stand a chance.
The organisation of our departure moves ahead slowly: two Black Marias have been arranged, which means that there must be at least ten of us, considering that we will be provided with guardian angels. Around ten o clock at night Dr.Gourvés and I are brought out to take our places in one of them: including the guards and the police our number is multiplied by three or four. Extraordinary hustle and bustle under the harsh light of the floodlights. L’Abbé Le Breton is included of course. There is a squad of C.R.S. The motorcyclists have a Breton accent and are Breton: They are to lead and follow the convoy, between them two Black Marias and each one flanked by police cars. The convoy finally sets off into the night for Paris.
Our angel guardians, inspectors or C.R.S. – they are in civilian clothes – all seem to have colourful accents: where are the French? I asked myself: there is not one here. But there is one all the same; a pleasant and articulate man who reveals that he comes from Orleans. The others are ‘pieds-noirs’ from Algeria: nearly all jolly fellows, with one of them having brought a stock of white wine, another some playing cards for the journey: it was a long one; we did not have the same good fortune as Pierre Loquet and his two companions, who were transported by plane, or by helicopter like Dr. Simeoni after the Aleria affair. Gourvés had also been transported by helicopter to Ouessant for a search of his country house there.
Two stops broke the journey in order to allow us, one at a time, to answer the call of nature, watering the roadsides. These are not enough for our amateur of white wine, who at one stage, to the accompaniment of his colleagues’ jokes, opens the back window to relieve himself: the police car coming up behind turns on the windscreen wipers!
Impossible to sleep, even to doze and the benches are hard. We sometimes join in the conversation. It is obvious that these ‘pieds noirs’ do not like France: who could blame them? They remember Algeria where they were born and were expelled from: Do you remember? ‘Algeria is France; the greater France from Dunkirk to Tamannrasset’.
“Why did you not give up on France,” I asked one of them, “and proclaim your Independence?”
“The idea never crossed our minds at the time: we believed in France and were obsessed by the tricolour flag.”
The Bretons of today have at least the advantage and intelligence not to be obsessed by it any more, with the exception of a few retarded who are fast disappearing.
We arrive at Porte Saint-Cloud around five o clock in the morning, where after waiting a good hour, an imposing escort from the police prefecture takes over from our motorcyclists. We arrive at Fort de l’Est at daybreak around seven o clock in the morning. We are brought in one at a time to a large bare room with barred windows, a table, two benches and a few chairs. And here are the priests! It would have surprised me had there only been one. There is Antoine Le Bars, parish priest of Treglamus, ex F.L.B.1 of 1969, who had been quite badly knocked about at the time – it seems his brother is missing, Arthur, the parish priest of Duault! – There is also Jakez Ducamp from Brest, who was a Breiz Atao activist in his youth, F.Kerain, professor of philosophy in Lannion. Philosopher and autonomist! An explosive mixture if they are merged! The government should have thought of this beforehand!
Is it not a fact that philosophers today love obscurity? They only move in obscure circles that are conducive to all kinds of plots, chosen ground for all kinds of conspiracies. Do they not use a language that is so obtuse, convoluted and abstract that they are the only ones – and even then – able to understand it. A code, as Monsieur Prosecutor would say! Quote: ‘ The group (probably F.L.B. or A.R.B.?) as an erosion of seriality, the practical unity of an objectification in process and an immediate manifestation the other undergoes, of a difference, positive or negative (there must be electrical equipment in this), determines a practical and negative totality in the heart of the exterior seriality, that of those not grouped. And the non grouped being of every Other is the common relationship of the serial’s individual to the totalisation that gathers …’ Try making any sense of this if you do not have the code the prosecutor is seeking!
We are now well off with 4 priests out of the twelve here present! It is a good proportion: anything less was not expected. It is obvious that not Ponia, nor Chirac, nor Giscard are as clever as de Gaulle who, on seeing the upsurge of strong feelings in Brittany brought on by the arrest and imprisonment in 1969 of fifty F.L.B. 1 members, had sharply addressed his Minister of the Interior, in front of witnesses in Brest:
“It is agreed then Marcellin! From now on you do not arrest anyone else in Brittany, and especially not priests!”
It is true that if Marcellin had had his way, he could have arrested the five or six hundred people who (already!) were at the time members of the various F.L.B. networks.
Ronan Kerhousse from Brest is also here. A young man as solid and brave as he is modest, who in 1969 had participated, with his two friends Lecoq and Guillouzie, in the destruction of the C.R.S. barracks in Saint Brieuc, a feat that had the whole of Brittany in stitches of laughter for months. One of our eminent parliamentarians, before witnesses, even went as far as to refer to this feat against the unpopular forces of order as a ‘ delightful coup’. He was far from being the only one to think it.
Marziou from Brest is also there, an activist from the autonomist Front and Socialist self-management, Salomon from Concarneau, also from that same movement, Lalluyaux, restaurant owner from Lorient, whom I had never seen but had heard of as a left wing agitator dabbling in everything. In any case, it is well known that left wing circles that in broad daylight are very effective for political unrest are riddled with informers and provocateurs, both in Brittany and in France, on the police payroll. Those tempted to recruit from their midst for the purpose of illegal actions, would do well to remember that.
The guards had set apart a tall dark young man they had handcuffed, and that none of us knew. The handcuffs, which he had on since leaving Rennes – the only one to have been subjected to that treatment – had been tightened to such an extent that one of his hands was injured and swollen. Dr.Gourvés called for his colleague the Fort’s doctor, had him examine the state of the injured hand and he in turn ordered the removal of the handcuffs. We learnt later on that it was J.C. Denis, from Morbihan country, who had been arrested in Brest, during a bomb attack on the home of de Bennetot, a U.D.R. deputy from Brest. It seems that he has no connection with the Breton movement, or with the F.L.B., declaring that he is not one of them.
It becomes increasingly obvious to us that the police operation we are all victims of is, under the pretext of seeking out those responsible for attacks on parliamentarians, a political operation completely premeditated and directed against the whole Breton movement, in order to reign in its development by arresting its most militant activists, and at the same time discrediting it in the eyes of public opinion. A pointless move: it did not prevent two thousand five hundred people from assembling in Guingamp on the Sunday following our arrests, in response to a call by the cultural associations. During this gathering a Breton activist called on them all to proceed to police station and declare that each one of them belonged to the F.L.B.! Every police operation of this nature, every arrest, every Breton activist charged can only have the opposite effect to the one intended. It is strange that these gentlemen have not understood this yet: they are not astute politicians. All movements in opposition, especially if they have such a solid base and such a long standing one as the Breton movement, always feed on the mistake of their enemies.
None of us have had any sleep and we are dead tired: no hope of being able to lie down, except on the floor. We are brought a sandwich and a beer. Six o’ clock in the morning has long gone. According to French law, that was the hour at which our garde à vue was to have expired. I mention this to one of the police inspectors who calls in from time to time to see us:
“Since six o’ clock this morning,” I tell him, “we are being detained illegally.”
“It is a point of law that has not escaped me,” he replies. “I have enquired about it. Your garde à vue has expired but as you are presently in judicial premises, you may be considered as being temporarily guests of the Director of Public Prosecution for the State Security Court.”
In order to be detained as it pleases the government, I felt like adding. We are guests of the Prosecutor: for a man of his standing, he does not entertain very well: in the absence of beds on which we could have stretched out, he could have provided some club armchairs in which we could have rested. There are not even enough chairs for us all. At a pinch we could have forgiven him for not providing cigars and chilled whiskey! We pass the time as we can, pacing up and down and around, trying to doze sitting astride a chair, arms and forehead resting on the back. And yet we are all still free according to the definitions of the French State, since the door of the room is wide open and the guards are outside the door in the hallway!
It is not until three o clock in the afternoon that we are called in one at a time to appear before the examining magistrate. This does not proceed in alphabetical order. I am the fifth to be called in, after Denis, Le Gall, Lalluyaux and Le Breton. I am searched – probably to check that I am not carrying any weapon – before being brought upstairs. Change of atmosphere: comfortable offices, curtains and fitted carpets.
Monsieur the examining magistrate advises me of the charges against me: possession of explosives (I would never have thought that detonators could explode or cause damage all by themselves); breach of the law, adds the magistrate, in regard to an individual or collective business founded or aimed at substituting an illegal authority for the authority of the State – this breach of the law is a sentence used to justify the existence of the State Security Court – that possibly: I have never concealed that as far as I was concerned the illegal authority in Brittany is that of the French State – ; and finally the reconstituting of a dissolved League – What League? F.L.B. of course! Which one? It is not specified. February 1974, if I recall correctly, was still in the time of Pompidou, when the Council of Ministers on orders from Marcellin seized with the zeal for a grand gesture of repression, had in one fell swoop, dissolved three F.L.B.s, an illegal Corsican movement, the P.P.C.L., and a legal Basque movement: Enbata.
Actually, I have always wondered how something that did not exist could be dissolved, in the strict sense of French law. The various F.L.B.s, apart from one that merely had a transient existence, were always illegal. They were obviously not going to declare their existence at the Prefecture or in the Official bulletin! They therefore do not legally exist. How can one be accused of reconstituting something that never existed? It is true that French law, or rather those who should be trying to see to it that it is respected, but who break it every day for the simple reason that they are the powerful, do not seem to worry about these contradictions. Hence, would it not be simpler and more intelligent for the Council of Ministers to dissolve in advance all F.L.B.s present and to come, first numbering them all of course! Everybody in Brittany has already lost count: nobody knows if it is the fourth, fifth or sixth that is being sought! These gentlemen could always dissolve up to the twentieth: it would provide time to see it coming.
As soon as the dissolution was pronounced, I remember that the F.L.B.s had declared where they would stick the Council of Ministers paper: they had not been officially notified in fact. The F.L.B. commandos are not lacking in nerve or panache. It is actually an honour to be voted their leader: and even more so by an authority of the Roman church. Thank you, Mr.l’Abbé Le Breton, not Le Scoul (Labbé), see previous reference. – I prefer to be precise, as with all these sea birds it is not easy to know what is meant. Strictly between us, I fear that this Labbé, undoubtedly fierce: Stercorarias Skua – could end up by destroying the whole lot.
These formalities being over, I am led out of the office. The C.R.S. Sergeant advises me that as I have now been charged he has to handcuff me:
“Do not tighten them too hard,” he tells the guard.
He also advises me that it is not permitted to speak or smoke in the waiting room I am being taken to, where the others charged before me are already waiting: You have to remain seated, linked to the guard holding the other end of the chain from your handcuffs. I suppose it is also forbidden to spit on the floor and to speak Breton: but they have forgotten to put the notice up on the wall as it was done in the old days in Brittany’s public premises.
In the waiting room, where the armchairs are comfortable, I find lined up in a row, a guard, a detainee, a guard, a detainee, and so on the four charged before me: it looks like a game of draughts or checkers with live pieces. I lengthen the line. Heavy mournful silence: the guards are obliged to observe the same as we are. I have to smile: the silence is the same, minus the comfort and atmosphere, as the silence that reigned in the lounge of a good Irish country hotel, mainly frequented by British, where my wife and I stayed some years previous: you could have heard a pin drop. Each one of the five or six guests, sunk in deep armchairs, was buried in their book or newspaper: none raised their heads; one had the impression that the smoke from some pipes and from the turf fire in the chimney were the only things to make any noise. Everybody knows the English are not ‘talkative’.
We had come into the room on tip toes, afraid of the noise we would make as we sat down, in spite of the thick carpet, which might disturb this peace and this extraordinary silence. We had decided to speak to each other through signs. The charm was only broken a short while later by an Irish couple who had stood bewildered on the threshold before proceeding to take a seat. They did not last five minutes. After a conversation exchanged in whispers they began to titter at first before bursting into uncontrollable laughter with which we soon joined in. ‘They are crazy these Irish’ could be read in the looks of the English sunk in their armchairs: they had in fact simply raised their eyes without even moving their heads, or even the hint of a smile.
Here any laughter is out of the question: I become naturalised English. The waiting is long: we watch the entrance, each in turn after long intervals, of Kerhousse, then Gourvés, then Marziou. Gourvés, in spite of his handcuffs manages to open a newspaper:
“It is forbidden to read,” barks the sergeant.
“But it is the examining magistrate who gave me this newspaper!”
“It is forbidden to read and to move,” loudly repeats the sergeant.
“Am I allowed to breath?”
There are still four missing: young Solomon and the abbés Ducamp, Kerrain and Le Bars. We learnt later that they had been released after being charged and put on probation. We are therefore left with only one priest out of the four. Could it be that place Beauvau or place Vendôme, they have remembered de Gaulle?
We all know now that we will be joining Pierre Loquet, Gérard Coriton and Dominique Crochard, already imprisoned since July.
Still chained to our guards, we take our places in the Black Maria, which in spite of the frantic ‘pin-pon’ of its siren has difficulty forcing its way through the Paris traffic. The police are certainly not liked in Paris either: it seems like people are purposely not moving out of the way. In any case they know that those arrested are usually those who should not be arrested and not those who should! It is just after six o clock, rush hour, and already nightfall. At last we have reached Boulevard Argo and the high railings of La Santé. I know the area: I remember the studio, rue des Artistes, where I lived for four years, it is nearby.
The Black Maria drives into the yard with difficulty. All get out. The handcuffs are removed. All proceed to the clerk’s office: there we have to leave all the money we have on us, including cheque books – then photos and fingerprints, again!
I am asked what my level of education is. I remember in the army when I was made to sit the exam for illiterates because I stated I had never taken the primary certificate.
“Should I point out the diplomas I hold?”
“No, No; I will put higher level education: it is obvious, without a doubt.”
We proceed to the search: we have to strip off: our pockets are turned inside out, conscientiously emptied and an inventory of their contents is done. Our wallets, identity documents, drivers licence, penknife, everything in fact, apart from the clothing we have been able to bring with us. We are given a spoon, a fork, a glass, a large bowl and a plate in Duralex glass.
“Well, if it isn’t the Doctor,” exclaims the mulatto in charge of the search register, when he sees Dr.Gourvés.
The latter is well known in the house, he already spent six months there in 1972. They keep my suitcase, and replace it with a small cardboard box containing a comb, my underwear and my spare trousers. My prison number is 181652: I am sent to the second division with Gourvés, Kerhousse and Denis. The others are sent to a different division: as we must all be separated and placed in solitary confinement. Each one of us is taken to an individual cell. I am asked if I want to take a shower: I accept with pleasure; I feel grubby after a journey of thirty six hours.
The cell awaits me: There is a bed and even sheets: what luxury! Ouf! I am dead on my feet. I make my bed in record time. I can now stretch out and sleep. Calm now restored, the other detainees in that division welcome us with a great racket, banging on the doors of their cells for thirty seconds.
That Friday night 24th October I sleep soundly. This time I am no longer free: the door is closed…and I cannot open it. Reality finally replaces the absurd fiction of the garde à vue.
(The next part can be accessed by clicking on the activated Second Part at the beginning of this page.)