Ernest Moret’s colleagues have claimed that officers cited his participation in anti-government protests in his homeland.
London’s Metropolitan Police force has come under fire for its treatment of a French national arrested under anti-terrorist legislation earlier this week. Publisher Ernest Moret was reportedly told that his involvement in protests in his homeland were behind his detention in the UK capital.
Moret’s employer, French publishing house Éditions La Fabrique, issued a press release with fellow publisher Verso Books on Thursday in which they described the behavior of British officers as “scandalous.”
“We consider these actions to be outrageous and unjustifiable infringements of basic principles of the freedom of expression and an example of the abuse of anti-terrorism laws,” the statement read.
The publishers further claimed that Moret’s arrest was the latest example of a “slide towards repressive and authoritarian measures taken by the current French government in the face of widespread popular discontent and protest.”
According to the statement, Moret had arrived in London on Monday to take part in the London Book Fair. While at St. Pancras Station, he was allegedly “pulled aside by police officers acting under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detained for questioning without a lawyer present.”
The arresting officers reportedly explained that Moret was taken into custody because he had participated in recent anti-government protests back in France. He was held for questioning for six hours before being charged with obstruction. His phone and computer were also confiscated.
The two publishing houses insisted that the case proves there is “complicity between French and British authorities on this matter.”
The formal reason for Moret’s arrest was stated as obstruction of police duties. His colleagues alleged that officers had demanded that Moret hand over his cell phone and unblock it, which he supposedly refused to do.
Pamela Morton from the UK National Union of Journalists (NUJ) wrote: “It seems extraordinary that the British police have acted this way in using terrorism legislation to arrest the publisher who was on legitimate business here for the London Book Fair.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement that “at around 1930hrs on Monday, 17 April, a 28-year-old man was stopped by ports officers… under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.”
The AFP news agency later reported that Moret had been released on bail.
France has been gripped by mass protests in recent weeks as people vent their dissatisfaction at a retirement age increase pushed through by President Emmanuel Macron.