Feb 13, 2015

Savoy Activist Jailed Following Peaceful Protest in Bonneville

UNPO strongly condemns the imprisonment of Mr Fabrice Dugerdil, activist for the recognition of Savoy, who is now serving a three month sentence in Bonneville Prison following an exercise of his right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in France. 

Following participation in a peaceful protest in Bonneville, Savoy, on 8 November 2014, the French authorities arrested Mr Dugerdil on 28 January 2015 and accused him of organising an unauthorised demonstration; a crime that, according to Article 431-9 of the French Penal Code, carries a maximum prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of €7,500. The genuine organiser of the demonstration (a group called "La Savoie ce n’est pas la France") later confessed to the police.  The authorities proceeded to enforce a sentence to three months of imprisonment that was issued when Mr Dugerdil refused to pay late penalties he had contracted for refusing to pay an initial fine of €3,600 for driving with Savoy licence plates, a minor highway offence, committed in 2011. Mr Dugerdil is now held in Bonneville Prison.

On the day he was taken into custody [28 January 2015], after having been interrogated on the State of Savoy, Mr Dugerdil was brought to court in an unmarked and escorted police car, with a blanket covering his head. The street leading to the court building had been blocked and some 30 soldiers were waiting for him in front of the Tribunal. He was detained straight after the hearing.

Mr Dugerdil has started a hunger strike and he resumed the thirst strike he had interrupted following his doctors’ advice. According to them, his medical condition is deteriorating. His wife, Ms Valérie Dugerdil, is having difficulties getting a permit to visit him in prison and communications between members of the Provisional Government of the State of Savoy have become complicated.

UNPO is shocked by the French authorities’ harsh reaction to Mr Dugerdil’s exercise of his right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and to his acts of civil disobedience. We particularly condemn the apparent refusal of the authorities to recognise the confession of the organiser of the demonstration and the possible apparent underlying political motives surrounding the imprisonment of Mr Dugerdil. UNPO is also distressed to hear unconfirmed reports that the authorities have threatened to intensify Mr Dugerdil’s sentence by transferring him to a prison far removed from Savoy if demonstrations are organised to pressure for his release.

As a non-violent and democratic organisation, UNPO wholeheartedly supports freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and strongly opposes excessive sentencing used against those who exercise these rights. UNPO calls upon the French authorities to reassess the case of Mr Fabrice Dugerdil based on the confession of the genuine organiser of the unauthorised peaceful protest in November 2014, and release him pending a free and fair trial.  If France wishes to uphold its strong democratic traditions, it must ensure all its citizens the freedom to protest peacefully, without fear of criminal conviction or conflation with political motives.

A press release in French can be found here.