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'Spy for us or we won’t let you become French'

Published: 07 Mar 2014 16:16 GMT+01:00

Who's Anna?

There are lots of Anna's out there, but in this case, Anna, is a 19-year-old student in France, who was born in St Petersburg, Russia, and was in the process of gaining French citizenship

Why is she all over the news this week?

Well in short, she gave an interview to French newspaper Le Figaro, alleging that when she had her naturalisation interview with police, they asked her to spy on a splinter group of France’s right-wing anti-gay marriage movement, known as the "Manif pour Tous". If not they would effectively ruin her application for citizenship.

Tell me more.

Anna came to Yvelines, just west of Paris, in 2004 with her two parents, who had been granted permission to stay in France.  Having been in the country the required amount of time she decided to seek French citizenship.

As part of that process she had to be interviewed by a local official, and as occasionally happens, the police were also asked to check her out, apparently after she had mentioned she was interested in French politics and had attended a few protests. It was then things took an unexpected turn.

Don’t tell me, she was asked to be a spy.

Allegedly yes. According to Anna and a few sources that appear to have confirmed her story to French media. Basically the police line of questioning went as follows.

Police: “So you’re right wing, I presume? Have you been to the Manif Pour Tous protest? And what about your friends? What can you really bring to France?”

Then the commander allegedly threatened to “put an unfavourable opinion” on her file, unless she agreed to go along to a meeting of the “Veilleurs”, an ultra-conservative branch of the Manif pour Tous movement, and collect the names of the people who were there, members of the network and those that are circulating texts around. Police were particularly concerned about the movement as many of the protests had descended into violence and it appearedthat extremists had taken hold hold of the mainstream campaign against gay marriage.

At one point during the interview one of the officers even complemented Russia’s secret police, the KGB.

“I was shocked. I had the impression I was part of a gangster movie,” Anna told Le Figaro. “So I told them I would do it, I didn’t want to provoke them. They told me not to say anything to anyone, not even my parents. I had to say it was a normal meeting.”

What next? did she go through it?

According to her she didn’t. Instead she told her parents and her teachers at university and then local authorities and the leaders of the Manif pour Tous.

“At the beginning of October a girl, Anna, came to me in a state of great distress. She had the choice of denouncing her friends or face the prospect of being deported,” said François-Xavier Bellamy, deputy mayor of Versailles and supporter of the Manif Pour Tous.

So that’s that?

Not at all. We have not heard the last of this. Naturally the Manif Pour Tous leaders are up in arms and now that the blackmail allegations are out in the open, the Ministry of Interior has got involved. The government has asked France’s “police of police” or the General Inspectorate of National Police to get involved and investigate. Inspectors are due to report back as soon as possible.

And Anna?

No word yet on whether she has been granted citizenship. But can't imagine they will deny her it now.

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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