France threatens 'coup-plotting army staff' with JAIL
France threatens ‘coup-plotting army staff’ with JAIL – and the retired generals behind the plans face losing pay and privileges
- Eighteen serving officers who signed letter to Macron are to be fired, it emerged
- But despite anger, right-wing politicians like Rachida Dati are backing the troops
- Dati said that the concerns of the soldiers reflected a very real terror threat
- The mayor of the 7th arrondissement said the police were the targets of jihadists
A group of retired soldiers who have raised the prospect of a military coup to ‘save’ France from radical Islam are to lose their pay and privileges of rank, the country’s armed forces chief said today.
The 18 serving officers who backed their calls have been threatened with jail.
Defence chief General Francois Lecointre said he would take disciplinary action against the generals and retired officers, who were among 2,000 who signed an open letter to the French President.
Lecointre said: ‘These general officers will each pass before a higher military council. At the end of this procedure, it is the President of the Republic who signs a decree expelling them’.
They will lose their pay and privileges as members of the reserve of senior officers, and won’t be able to use their rank.
A Paris mayor has backed military chiefs who threatened to seize control of the country to fight radical Islam and prevent the ‘disintegration’ of France.
Despite widespread condemnation, politicians on the right like Rachida Dati, mayor of the 7th arrondissement, continue to throw their support behind the signatories, who included 20 retired generals.
‘What is written in this letter is a reality,’ Ms Dati told France Info radio today. ‘When you have a country plagued by urban guerrilla warfare, when you have a constant and high terrorist threat, when you have increasingly glaring and flagrant inequalities … we cannot say that the country is doing well.’
Rachida Dati, mayor of Paris’ 7th arrondissement, said that the concerns expressed in the letter to Emmanuel Macron were valid. Ms Dati told France Info radio today: ‘When you have a country plagued by urban guerrilla warfare, when you have a very regular and very high terrorist threat, when you have increasingly glaring and flagrant inequalities … we cannot say that the country is doing well’
Army Corps General Christian Piquemal, 80, was the lead signatory of the 20 retired generals who backed the letter. He is pictured at an anti-Islam rally in Calais in 2016.
Division General Emmanuel De Richoufftz during his visit to the central Ivory Coast area of Sakassou August 29, 2003. Gen. De Richoufftz was also among the 20 generals to sign the letter.
Rachida Dati cut her teeth as an adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy before she was appointed his justice minister in 2007 (they are pictured together in Paris in August, 2007)
The 55-year-old was raised in a devoutly Muslim household by an Algerian mother and father. She has made a name for herself as a politician who takes no prisoners, infuriating left-wingers with her law-and-order crackdown as justice minister, and brushing off critics when she decided to take just three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter.
She said that ‘the police have become a target for terrorists.’
A policewoman was stabbed to death last week in Rambouillet southwest of Paris.
Anti-terror officers said the suspect, a Tunisian national, had been watching jihadist propaganda videos prior to the attack.
Ms Dati continued: ‘I am afraid that the police will break down one day.’
Referencing the military officers’ letter, she added: ‘And if they crack, we go well beyond the disintegration of society.’
The 55-year-old served as justice minister under Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2009.
Raised in a devoutly Muslim household by Algerian immigrant parents, Ms Dati is no stranger to ruffling feathers and has been tipped to run against Macron in 2022.
She is renowned for taking no prisoners, infuriating left-wingers with her law-and-order crackdown as justice minister, and brushing off critics when she decided to take just three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter.
Asked in September what her plans were over the next two years, Ms Dati told The Times: ‘To win the 2022 presidential election.’
Her intervention today comes as the Chief of France’s Defence Staff General François Lecointre today condemned those who signed the letter, calling it ‘absolutely revolting.’
‘I hope that their automatic retirement will be decided,’ Gen. Lecointre told the Parisien newspaper.
‘This is an exceptional procedure, which we are launching immediately at the request of the Minister of the Armed Forces.
‘These general officers will each pass before a higher military council. At the end of this procedure, it is the President of the Republic who signs a decree expelling them’.
The 18 serving officers joined thousands of retired ones who had signed an open letter warning that France was heading for ‘civil war’ because of radical Islam.
It said action was needed to fight the ‘suburban hordes’ – a reference to the predominantly immigrant population of the housing estates which surround French cities – or else there would be ‘thousands of deaths’.
President Macron’s government strongly condemned the letter, which was published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’etat by generals opposed to France granting independence to Algeria, its former North African colony.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the letter by military figures was ‘against all of our republican principles, of honour and the duty of the army’.
And Florence Parly, the Defence Minister, said: ‘This is unacceptable. There will be consequences, naturally.
The soldiers behind the letter were all said to be anti-immigration activists with racist views and strong ties to the far-Right Rassemblement National (National Rally).
The lead signatory was Christian Piquemal, 80, who commanded the French Foreign Legion before losing his privileges as a retired officer after being arrested while taking part in an anti-Islam demonstration in 2016.
Chief of France’s Defence Staff General François Lecointre today condemned those who signed the letter, calling it ‘absolutely revolting’ (Lecointre is pictured standing beside Emmanuel Macron in a car during Bastille Day ceremonies in July last year)
Marine Le Pen, the Rassemblement National leader, welcomed the letter, which was first published last week in Valeurs Actuelle (Current Values) magazine.
‘I invite you to join us in taking part in the coming battle, which is the battle of France,’ Le Pen wrote in a response to the letter.
Le Pen, who would become head of France’s Armed Forces if she replaces Macron as president next year, was widely criticised by her opponents on both the Left and Right for her words.
France’s current Fifth Republic has been threatened by military coups in the past, notably by far-Right activists who were eventually defeated as they tried to keep Algeria in the early 1960s.
There are some five million Muslims in France – the largest community of its kind in western Europe – and many have backgrounds in former colonies, such as Algeria.
The Rassemblement National used to be called the Front National (National Front), and was founded by Ms Le Pen’s father, the convicted anti-Semite, racist and Islamophobe, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
No-nonsense Paris mayor raised in a devoutly Muslim household who took just three days maternity leave
The mayor of Paris’ affluent 7th arrondissement since 2008, Rachida Dati has made a name for herself as a politician who takes no prisoners.
The 55-year-old infuriated left-wingers with her tough law-and-order crackdown as justice minister in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government from 2007 to 2009.
She took no notice of appalled judges when she streamlined the outdated provincial courts.
And she brushed off critics who took to the airwaves when she decided to take just three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter.
‘I was in good health, my daughter was in good health, I wanted to go back and I had the means to do it,’ she told The Times in September. ‘I wasn’t asking anyone else to do the same thing. But I reckoned that I should be allowed to do it if I wanted. You see, you have to battle to be free.’
Rachida Dati, French former Justice minister, attends a TV debate for 2014 Paris Municipal Election with Paris’ deputy mayor Anne Hidalgo. She lost to the socialist incumbent Hidalgo but she was able to secure 34 per cent of the vote – enough of a share for Le Monde to proclaim that she could challenge Macron.
Ms Dati grew up in a devout Muslim household in Burgundy, the child of Algerian immigrants, her father was a stone mason.
Despite living on a council estate, Ms Dati’s father was keen that she get a good education and sent her to a private Catholic school.
‘My parents were Muslims and we were brought up as Muslims, but he thought that all religions, including Catholicism, taught you the difference between good and evil,’ Ms Dati said.
She added that many French Muslims have a similarly open outlook, but nevertheless conceded that radical Islam was taking hold in France.
Ms Dati attributes this to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of allowing people to maintain their customs and practices.
‘What troubled me about England is the fact that you say you respect people’s differences, but in fact you go further than that, and you allow people to live in isolation. There is very little social mix,’ she told The Times.
‘The French model is totally different, although I fear that we are slowly moving towards a multicultural and multi-ethnic model that could generate conflicts.
‘Everyone now wants to defend an identity and there comes a time when … what you have are individuals and communities demanding their own rights and their own rules. And that is dangerous. It creates divisions.’
Last year she cemented her position as a presidential contender when she ran for office as the mayor of all of Paris.
Dati considers Sarkozy her political mentor (pictured together at the site of the Terracota Warriors in Xian, China, in 2007)
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy introduces Rachida Dati during a meeting ahead of the first round of the mayoral elections on March 9, 2020, in Paris
She lost to the socialist incumbent Anne Hidalgo but she was able to secure 34 per cent of the vote – enough of a share for Le Monde to proclaim that she could challenge Macron.
Throughout her success, Ms Dati said she has faced derision from snobby Parisians, more so because of her working class background than her ethnicity.
Under Macron’s government she has argued that such class divisions have been made worse.
‘Unemployment is high and we have unprecedented levels of youth unemployment,’ she told The Times.
‘We have protests all the time, the crime rate has exploded and we have an exponential debt.’
The generals calling for a coup d’état: Le Pen candidates, Yellow Vest activists and an 80-year-old who was arrested at anti-Islam rally in Calais
Christian Piquemal, stripped of his privileges by army chiefs
Piquemal, 80, a former general of the Foreign Legion, leads the signatories of the furious letter addressed to Emmanuel Macron.
He was stripped of his privileges as a retired officer after he was arrested at an anti-immigration rally in Calais in 2016.
Also in attendance were members of the anti-Islamic Pegida movement.
Christian Piquemal speaks at a rally in Calais in 2016. The rally was attended by Pegida, an anti-Islamic movement which originated in Germany
Piquemal denied knowledge that Pegida were also going to be there and denied his protest was racist.
The general was said to have been the de-facto leader of the rally but was later acquitted by a judge, while others were handed fines.
Piquemal, who retired in 2000, was stripped of his right to wear the uniform and lost his military officer’s ID card. However, his rank was not withdrawn.
Emmanuel de Richoufftz, ‘general of the suburbs’
A graduate of the prestigious Saint-Cyr military school founded by Napoleon, de Richoufftz served as aide-de-camp to French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy from 1981 to 1984.
He served in Iraq, Africa and Bosnia.
He is known as the ‘general of the suburbs’ after penning a book titled Another Late War in 1992.
Children celebrate the visit of French General Emmanuel De Richoufftz during his visit to the central Ivory Coast area of Sakassou in August, 2003
The general sought to alert the public to ‘real ghettos on the outskirts of cities’, warning that intervention was needed to integrate disadvantaged young people.
He represented Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in local elections in Le Grau-du-Roi in 2019.
Last year he ditched Le Pen’s party to join up with Debout la France (‘France Arise’), a right-wing Euro-sceptic party.
Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, former police chief and Yellow Vest activist
Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, former police chief
Fabre-Bernadac is the manager of the Place Armes website which is ‘open to all retired, active, and reserve military personnel who love France and realise that France is on the brink.’
In 2018, he participated in Yellow Vest protests against Macron’s government.
In a recent radio appearance, Fabre-Bernadac lamented the ‘omerta’ which hangs around the issue of immigration, claiming that murders and assaults perpetrated by migrants were not given media coverage.
He called it a ‘terrible double standard.’
In another recent media appearance he said: ‘The French do not trust politicians but they trust the army.’
Antoine Martinez, former air force general
Martinez was also embroiled in the furore over the Calais rally organised by Piquemal in 2016.
He hosts the Volunteers for France website.
In a video filmed in November last year for the Volunteers for France Youtube channel, Martinez described how the coronavirus crisis masked what he believes is the more pressing matter of Islamic radicalisation.
He wrote in an accompanying article: ‘There is no point, in fact, to project our soldiers into external theatres to protect us, if our leaders give up, despite the evidence, to name the enemy, and to fight him on our soil.’
Antoine Martinez, former air force general
Francois Gaubert, Le Pen ally
Gaubert, 77, another graduate of the elite Saint-Cyr officer training college, spent four decades in the Navy on operations abroad, including in Africa, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, in Berlin after the fall of the wall and in Sarajevo, at the end of the war in Bosnia.
He retired in 2002.
He joined Front National in December 2012 and was a candidate in council elections in Montpellier.
He was elected as a councillor in 2015.
Today he is National Rally councillor in Occitanie.
The 20 generals:
Christian Piquemal, Gilles Barrie, François Gaubert, Emmanuel de Richoufftz, Michel Joslin de Noray, André Coustou, Philippe Desrousseaux de Medrano, Antoine Martinez, Daniel Grosmaire, Robert Jeannerod, Pierre Dominique Aigueperse, Roland Dubois, Dominique Delawarde, Jean Claude Grolier, Norbert de Cacqueray, Roger Prigent, Alfred Lebreton, Guy Durand and Gérard Balastre.
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