FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
PARIS «Democracy is not setting fire to cars, it is not trying to kill policemen. Democracy is above all going to vote,” he says French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who went to Rome on Saturday to support the candidacy of the secretary of the Renaissance party, Deborah Abisror De Lieme, for the seat of deputy of the French abroad. Dupond-Moretti has dual French and Italian nationality and is very fond of his origins: «At the G7 of justice ministers in Germany, I met Canadian minister David Lametti and we asked ourselves which language to speak. We discovered that we both come from Fabriano, in the Marche region, and we ended up speaking Italian». With the Courier Dupond-Moretti talks about the value of elections, of social tensions of these weeks in Franceand also of the sentence of the French Court of Cassation that tomorrow could definitively refuse the extradition to Italy of the ex militants of the extreme left.
Why did you personally commit yourself by going to Rome to support the candidacy of Deborah Abisror De Lieme?
«For three reasons, the first is that President Emmanuel Macron has just asked the government to which I belong to enlarge our majority. And the best way to do that is to win elections. Then I personally know the commitment of Deborah, who was on the front line with Olivier Véran (now government spokesperson, ed) during the Covid emergency ».
The third reason?
«The deputies of the French abroad are extremely important. As a convinced European, I think they can create links in this case between France and Italy, two great friendly democracies. I am binational, I love Italy and I am very fond of relations between the two countries. I think Deborah will allow the Franco-Italian friendship to continue in the interest of the French who are lucky enough to live in Italy».
Do you think the vote of April 2 and 16 could be a test for your government?
“I don’t believe it. Rather, I think it will be important for democracy to see how many people will vote. Because this is democracy, after all. The main question for me is participation, how many voters mobilize to vote».
Is voting more important than demonstrations?
«Democracy is going to vote, first of all. Then you can disagree and demonstrate, of course. It is a constitutional right. But there is no right to throw stones on the heads of the policemen who are there, precisely, to ensure the safety of the demonstrators”.
What do you think of the serious clashes on Saturday, with dozens injured, in the fields of Sainte-Soline between the forces of order and opponents of the construction of irrigation basins?
“The far left in this country calls for civil disobedience. That is, disobedience to the laws that in our democracy are made by the representatives of the people. When those who call for disobeying the law are also those in charge of voting for it, that is, the deputies, frankly there are questions to be asked. There are people who have gone to Sainte-Soline to provoke, to destroy, to kill policemen. Police and justice work together to restore democratic order. We must respond firmly to the violence of these scoundrels who break everything, attack the forces of order and the representatives of the Republic. I asked the prosecutors for the greatest firmness against these criminals”.
QWhen he speaks of the call for civil disobedience, are you alluding to the leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon?
“He’s the one who adds fuel to the fire. I would like to remind you that he was definitively sentenced by the courts of my country for having carried out violence against policemen and a magistrate of the prosecutor’s office, shouting “La République c’est moi”. No, the Republic is above all respecting our magistrates, our forces of order and our representatives».
In recent weeks you have called for a “criminal, systematic and rapid response” against those arrested in the demonstrations. Why did you feel the need to intervene?
«The Minister of Justice does not have the right to intervene in individual cases and rightly so, in a democracy, but he can give clear general guidelines to all prosecutors so that those who threaten representatives of the people and the forces of order are firmly repressed. That’s what I asked. Respect for the rule of law is above all respect for the law.
However, many arrested are released without charge, hence the controversy over arrests that according to some would be arbitrary and preventive, to intimidate the demonstrators.
“Everyone does their job, the police stop and justice judges. When an arrest does not necessarily lead to a conviction, it means that justice has taken its course and it means that we are not in a police state but precisely in a democracy in which evidence is needed to convict a person. When there is evidence, justice pronounces severe penalties. And when there is no evidence, he draws conclusions. That things are very clear, I ask for the greatest firmness against the hooligans, not against the demonstrators who in their immense majority exercise their constitutional right in calm”.
Your opponents report excesses by law enforcement.
«A newspaper published certain sentences of the policemen on the occasion of an arrest. The prefect of police of Paris, Laurent Nunez, immediately asked the General Inspection of the police to intervene. It’s very simple. Things must be done following the republican order, and this is how we clarify what is democratic and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not. This certainly also applies to the forces of order ».
On Tuesday, the French Court of Cassation will rule on Italy’s request for the extradition of former far-left militants. What is your opinion?
“In the meantime, I call them terrorists. Assassins. I would like to recall that Mr. Cesare Battisti, who was supported by a part of the French intelligentsia, admitted his guilt as soon as he arrived in Italy, after having criticized for years the Italian justice system, which is an independent, sovereign and great democratic country. The second thing to say is that, from a political point of view, we did what was necessary to get them arrested. The last thing is that justice is obviously independent and sovereign, in France as in Italy. The Keeper of the Seals cannot intervene and I don’t have the crystal ball to say what will happen on Tuesday. Whatever the decision, I will send a message to the Italians».