(Paris) In the absence of elements linking the suspect to ultra-right ideology, the French national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office (Pnat) has not taken action at this stage of the investigation into the assassination of the three Kurds on Friday in Paris, relaunching the debate on the boundary between common law and terrorist acts.
Before the investigators, William Mallet, 69, admitted his “pathological hatred of foreigners” and his desire to “murder migrants”.
But the racist motivations of this retired train conductor were not backed by a supremacist ideology and the judicial investigation was entrusted to an investigating judge from the general pole of the Paris court.
Many Kurds refuse to believe the version of a shooter with racist motivations, denounce a “terrorist” act and implicate Turkey.
“It is unacceptable that the terrorist character is not retained”, considered on Friday Agit Polat, spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Council in France (CDK-F).
“The fact that our associations are targeted is of a terrorist and political nature,” he said.
The threat of attacks from the ultra-right has been “growing” in recent years and is “taken very seriously”, according to an anti-terrorism magistrate. Since 2017, a dozen procedures related to this ideology have been opened at the Paris anti-terrorism center.
“The Penal Code defines terrorist acts as those committed intentionally in relation to an individual or collective enterprise aimed at seriously disturbing public order through intimidation or terror”, recalls the anti-terrorist prosecution.
For the Pnat to seize, it is necessary “to characterize in the perpetrator a specific intention which is that of adhering to a terrorist enterprise”, he specifies. “It is therefore not the consequences of an act that must be analysed, but the intention of its author, the goal he has pursued”.
Evolution of the “outline of offences”
The search of William Mallet’s home like the exploitation of a telephone and a computer revealed no link with “an extremist ideology”, reported Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau.
The suspect was neither known to the intelligence services nor listed as belonging to the ultra-right, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
“I understand that it may shock, but the Pnat is always cautious and prefers to start from” below “, on a common law offense and move on to a terrorist qualification if the progress of the investigation justifies it”, explains Xavier Nogueras , a lawyer accustomed to terrorist proceedings.
The investigations are continuing and it is not excluded that the facts will be reclassified as terrorist assassinations if elements accrediting this track appear over the judicial information.
This murderous attack echoes for the Kurdish community the assassination of three militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on January 9, 2013 in Paris.
The investigations into these three deaths have been qualified as assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise. The terrorist qualification had been justified in particular by the profile of the victims, PKK militants, and the suspect, Omer Güney.
This Turkish national, who died of illness in 2016, was suspected of being close to Turkish ultranationalist circles and of having infiltrated the Kurdish community in France since the end of 2011.
“We do not understand the logic of the prosecution: in 2013 the investigation was opened for a terrorist offense for similar facts” to those that occurred last week, is surprised Antoine Comte, lawyer for civil parties.
“Between Güney and today, the contours of terrorist offenses have been much better defined because we have had a lot of case law with the various trials that have taken place since the Merah affair”, – in reference to the author of the jihadist attacks that killed seven people ten years ago – estimates Me Nogueras, who was Mr. Güney’s lawyer.
“It is not certain that the Pnat would have taken action immediately if the 2013 murders had taken place today”, he considers.