The curious case of the UK spycop, the (French) ‘Invisible Committee’ and the FBI

Reposted from the UndercoverInfo blog by Tom Coburg
13 August / repost 14 August 2015

The dead hand of notorious UK spycop Mark Kennedy has reached out once again – this time in France, where a major trial involving a so-called ‘metaphysical anarchist’ cell saw the most serious charge – terrorism – dismissed. In a statement afterwards one of the defendants accused the prosecution of having based its case on false statements made by the police – in other words, fabricated (or exaggerated) evidence. Here is what happened…

On 11 November 2008, twenty French men and women were arrested simultaneously in Paris, Rouen, and in the small village of Tarnac (located in the district of Corrèze, Massif Central). Those in Tarnac were living in a small farmhouse – and in the village they had reorganised the local grocery store as a cooperative and taken up a number of civic activities, from the running of a film club to the delivery of food to the elderly.

The police operation was dramatic: it involved helicopters, one hundred and fifty balaclava-clad anti-terrorist police and massive media coverage. The arrests sparked huge protests in Paris and in other French cities and towns, as well as the village of Tarnac, which describes itself as communist and where those arrested were seen as highly-respected members of the community.

The arrested were accused of having participated in a number of sabotage attacks against the high-speed TGV train routes by obstructing the trains’ power cables with horseshoe-shaped iron bars, so causing delays that affected 160 trains. Eleven of the suspects were freed almost immediately; the remainder were subsequently dubbed in the media as the ‘Tarnac Nine’.

Prior to the raids, certain events happened in France, the UK and the USA…

Responding to a request from French authorities for help with the case, Detective Chief Inspector Richard May, of the UK’s National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU), wrote to his French counterpart: “The United Kingdom law enforcement units are able to confirm that information is available” that Julien Coupat (whom the French authorities regarded as the mastermind of the Tarnac ‘anarchist cell’) had attended a meeting in Nancy, a city in north-east France, in February 2008. May added: “Later that same day the meeting moved to a location in a village called Moussey, France. During these meetings, the making of improvised explosive devices was both discussed and practised.” Two other activists were named as being present at the meetings. This information that May passed on was crucial to the prosecution case.

Spycop Mark Kennedy, who was based within the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and which worked alongside the NDET, alleged how he had met certain ‘activists’ at a meeting of international anarchists in New York. May’s letter also referred to this meeting: “The United Kingdom law enforcement units are able to state that information is available that Julien Coupat was present at a meeting in New York, USA, between 12 and 13 January 2008.”

It was Mark Kennedy who claimed how he had witnessed the French ‘activists’ practising making explosives. And it was he who had provided ‘intelligence’ about the alleged New York meeting. Kennedy, it should be remembered, was the UK spycop whose ‘evidence’ led to the dramatic collapse of the trials of environmental ‘activists’ in the UK – whom Kennedy had infiltrated as an agent provocateur. Kennedy has also admitted how he had sexual relationships with female ‘activists’.

Meanwhile, the FBI had similarly contacted their French counterparts and informed them of an alleged illegal crossing from Canada into the USA by Coupat and his companion, Yildune Levy. The FBI also informed the French how they had allegedly discovered a rucksack, left at the border, that had in it a picture of a recruiting office in New York’s Times Square, which would later be the target of a small bomb attack. The rucksack also allegedly contained documents from certain North American anarchists.

Back in France, the Renseignements géneraux [RG] was describing Coupat as a ‘critical metaphysician’ and an ‘anarcho-autonomist’ and that the Tarnac Nine were basically a 21st Century version of Action Directe. Others – probably more accurately – would describe them as the natural inheritors of the Situationist Internationale (Coupat wrote a dissertation on the Situationist, Guy Debord, who, together with Raoul Vaneigem, was influential in the May 68 ‘insurrection’ in Paris.) Indeed. supporters of Coupat and the other accused simply stated that far from being terrorists the Nine were idealists who wanted to see the end of capitalism and commodification; also, that the so-called prosecution evidence was manufactured.

Julien Coupat

The French authorities continued to justify the arrests, claiming that the Nine were guilty of terrorism given that Coupat was the author of a textbook, published by the “Invisible Committee of the Imaginary Party”, called “The Coming Insurrection”. This book, published in 2007, soon became widely available in bookshops and even on Amazon. The book discussed sabotage and the means to overthrow the state. (Note: a review of this book and a sequel, together with their relevance to the recent anti-austerity movements across Europe, is given in Tom Coburg’s original blog post.)

So from the Prosecution’s point of view the case looked cut and dry. However…

Yidune Levy

However, yesterday Judge Jeanne Duyé rejected the government’s attempt to have three of the activists – Coupat, Levy and Gabrielle Hallez – tried for “terrorism” and decided that four of the defendants – namely Coupat, Levy and two others – should now face the charge of “conspiracy” (which, in France, is a far lesser charge).

After the court’s decision the Defence lawyers told the press: “Right from the start, our clients have been regarded and treated as terrorists. Finally it’s been realised that this just doesn’t hold up”. Mathieu Burnel, one of the defendants, poignantly added: “Our arrests were purely political and based on false statements from the police. The whole thing is going to fall apart once it goes to trial”.

The prosecution refused to acknowledge that the UK and US reports, via Kennedy, etc contributed to the legal case, though the defence maintains that if it was not for those reports the arrests and the subsequent charges may never have eventuated.

Julien Coupat, supposedly one of the main authors of The Coming Insurrection, also added that it was “laughable” that the “terrorism” case brought against him should be based merely on a book that can be bought in high street book chains in France, such as Fnac.

Meanwhile, back in the UK the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing still refuses to examine cases of UK spycops who were active outside the UK.


For background on the ‘Tarnac 9’ see this 2010 Vice article, and if you read French, check the book by David Dufresne, via the Tarnac, magasin général website, and the series of weekly blogs (50 in total!) for Le Monde, par Laurent Borredon.

For more on Mark Kennedy:

Read ore on the Invisible Committee of The Imaginary Party …and on Situationism:

Tom Coburg’s blog post includes a review of “The Coming Insurrection” and its sequel, by Paul Cudenec.