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POLITICS

French court hands jail term to Afghan man evacuated from Kabul

A French court has handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence to an Afghan man for violating the terms of a surveillance order, days after France evacuated him from Taliban-controlled Kabul.

French court hands jail term to Afghan man evacuated from Kabul
The man was evacuated from Kabul to France. Illustration photo: Sakhib Rahmani/AFP

The man, Ahmat M, is one of five people who were placed under surveillance after their arrival in France as part of an investigation into links with the Taliban.

One man, not Ahmat M, is suspected of working for the Taliban despite helping France evacuate nationals and Afghans in danger. He and four others deemed close to him, including Ahmat M., were placed under surveillance earlier this week.

The surveillance order included strict limits on movements and Ahmat M, who arrived at the weekend, was convicted by a court late Wednesday for straying outside of this zone.

Ahmat M, who says he was a prosecutor in Afghanistan before resuming his law studies, had been ordered not to leave the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, where he was living with his wife, baby daughter and several other family members.

He told the court he wanted to buy medicine because he suffered from headaches and vomiting since arriving in France. In sometimes confused remarks, he said he followed a man living in the same hotel who offered to buy him these medicines, without realising that he was going to central Paris.

The other man told investigators that Ahmat M had asked him to accompany him to Paris to buy SIM cards. Ahmat M also insisted he was unaware of the restrictions he had to follow.

“This is not the case of a Taliban in France, it is the case of a man who fled his country with his wife and his three-month-old daughter” and who was arrested for “going to the supermarket,” said his lawyer Alice Ouaknine.

Member comments

  1. Ha Ha ! Love the Vaccination Advertisements . 🙂
    I don’t think there was anything as alluring in the UK .
    Some teenagers were offered vouchers…..not quite the same.

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POLITICS

Macron restarts reform drive as opponents prepare for battle

French President Emmanuel Macron will get a taste of public resistance to his second-term reform agenda this week during the first nationwide strike called since his re-election in April.

Macron restarts reform drive as opponents prepare for battle

The 44-year-old head of state has pledged to push ahead with raising the retirement age having backed away from the explosive issue during his first five years in power.

But having lost his parliamentary majority in June, the pro-business centrist faces severe difficulties passing legislation, while galloping inflation is souring the national mood.

Despite warnings from allies about the risk of failure, Macron has tasked his government with hiking the retirement age to 64 or 65 from 62 currently, with changes to start taking effect next year.

“I’m not pre-empting what the government and the parliament will do, but I’m convinced it’s a necessity,” Macron told the BFM news channel last Thursday.

With deficits spiralling and public debt at historic highs, the former investment banker argues that raising the retirement age and getting more people into jobs are the only ways the state can raise revenue without
increasing taxes.

On Thursday, France’s far-left CGT union, backed by left-wing political parties, has organised a national day of strikes, the opening shot in what is expected to be a months-long tussle.

Though the protests were originally planned to demand wage increases, they are now intended to signal broad opposition to the government’s plans.

“We’re against the raising of the retirement age,” Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT, told the LCI broadcaster last week. “The government’s arguments don’t stack up.”   

Unpopular

Public opinion towards pension reform and the strikes is likely to be decisive in determining whether Macron succeeds with a reform he called off in 2020 in the face of protests and Covid-19.

An opinion poll last week from the Odoxa group found that 55 percent of respondents did not want the reform and 67 percent said they were ready to support protests against it.

But a separate survey from the Elabe group gave a more nuanced picture. It also found that only a minority, 21 percent, wanted the retirement age increased, but a total of 56 percent thought the current system no longer worked and 60 percent thought it was financially unsustainable.

“I don’t know anyone who wants to work for longer, but I don’t know anyone who thinks they are not going to work for longer,” a minister close to Macron told AFP last week on condition of anonymity.

“Maybe I’m mistaken but I’m not sure that the turnout will be as large as the unions and LFI are hoping for,” he said, referring to the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) political party that has backed the strikes.

The second decisive factor will be how the government introduces the reform in parliament where Macron’s allies are around 40 seats short of a majority.

Some favour slipping it into a social security budget bill that will be voted on in October — a stealthy move that will be denounced as under-handed by critics.

Others think more time should be taken for consultations with trade unions and opposition parties, even though they have all ruled out working with the government.

Macron prefers the quicker option, one senior MP told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In both scenarios, observers expect the government to resort to a controversial constitutional mechanism called “article 49.3” that allows the executive to ram legislation through the national assembly without a vote.

If opposition parties unite against the measure or call a no-confidence motion in the government, they could trigger new elections.

The reform was “ballsy but dangerous,” one ally told French media last week.

Macron II

Success with the pension reform and separate changes to the unemployment benefits system will help the president re-launch his image as a reformer, experts say.

Since winning a historic second term in April, he has been caught up in the Ukraine war crisis amid reports the parliamentary election setback in June left him disoriented and even depressed.

“We’ve slightly lost the narrative of Macronism,” political scientist Bruno Cautres, a researcher at Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP recently.

The challenge was giving the second term a “direction” and showing “how it builds on the results of the first”, he said.

“The essence of Macronism, which does not have a long history, is the leader and the programme,” added Benjamin Morel from Paris II university.

Since being elected as France’s youngest-ever president in 2017, Macron has made overhauling social security and workplace regulation part of his political DNA.

“Emmanuel Macron can’t easily back away from a reform because burying a reform, it’s like disavowing himself,” Morel said.

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