After bold promises, Macron on the defence over his climate policies
Prosecutors on Tuesday sought stiff sentences from five years to life in jail for 14 suspected accomplices of the Islamist gunmen who murdered cartoonists and killed hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris in 2015.
Sixteen people were killed in the attack at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and during a hostage-taking three days later.
One of the three assailants, all of whom were killed by police in shootouts, also shot dead a policewoman.
Those on trial since September are accused of providing varying degrees of logistical support to Charlie Hebdo killers Cherif and Said Kouachi and supermarket hostage-taker Amedy Coulibaly. They deny the charges.
Three of the 14 suspects, who range in age from 29 to 68 and include Coulibaly’s girlfriend Hayat Boumeddiene, are being tried in absentia.
Boumeddiene fled to Syria shortly after the attacks. Her whereabouts are not known.
?️ The trial of 14 suspects linked to the 2015 attacks on French satirical magazine #CharlieHebdo is now in its final stretch, with a verdict due next week.
The defendants could be facing sentences of 10 years to life in prison. @Sharon_Gaffney has more from the courthouse pic.twitter.com/pZaEJPtpAD
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) December 8, 2020
Prosecutors sought a life term for Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old French-Turkish national, presented during the trial as Coulibaly’s “right-hand man” accused of helping him and the Kouachi brothers secure weapons.
Polat admitted to the court he had taken part in various “scams” but denied any knowledge of what Coulibaly, who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, and his accomplices were planning.
Polat’s co-accused, including two men who spent time in jail alongside Coulibaly, also denied any hand in the attacks and rejected allegations of being radicalised.
The killing of the cartoonists caused deep shock in secular France, which has a tradition of anti-clerical satire.
The attacks marked the start of a long series of terror assaults in France, many of them carried out by young French devotees of Islamic State.
After the start of the trial, the cartoons were at the centre of another deadly attack in October, with a young Chechen refugee beheading teacher Samuel Paty for showing some of the caricatures to pupils in a class on free speech.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised €15 billion in new funding last June to speed up the move to a greener economy and said he would be ready to call a referendum on revising the constitution to include climate targets. Six months later, he finds himself defending his record against critics.
Macron’s announcements on the environment in June had been a response both to propositions made by the Citizens’ Convention on Climate (CCC) he created, made up of 150 randomly selected members of the French population, and to the sweeping victory by France’s Green party, Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV), in countrywide municipal elections.
When he created the citizens’ council, Macron vowed its proposals would be put to parliament “unfiltered” and eventually transformed into executive decrees or serve as the basis for a referendum. And in June, when the council presented its recommendations after nine months of work, the president announced that he accepted nearly all of them.
“Of the 149 proposals made, the president has decided to keep 146! He will submit them either to the government, the parliament, or to the French people,” said a statement on the Élysée Palace website.
On Monday, just days before the December 12 anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, government ministers met with parliament members and representatives of the CCC for two days of meetings around the subjects discussed by the council (housing, transportation, consumption, food, production and employment) in order to “present the points that were adopted,” sources who had received the invitation were quoted as saying by AFP.
“It is a matter of presenting them with the initial, long-awaited considerations of how their proposals will be translated before the text is presented to the cabinet," said the office of Environment Minister Barbara Pompili.
But members of the citizens' council expressed concern over the final wording of the legislation, after the government suggested that the scope of several measures would be limited or delayed, in particular due to the crisis that has hit polluting sectors such as automotive and aviation particularly hard.
“It would have been good to have had some of the documents before the meeting, so we could prepare. Now we’re going to discover the climate law at the same time as the parliament members,” Mélanie Blanchetot, a member of the CCC told France TV Info.
350,000 signatures to 'save the convention'
Cyril Dion, a French film director, actor, writer and environmentalist who had originally been appointed by Macron to help oversee the citizens’ group, recently launched an online petition to “save the convention”, which has garnered over 350,000 signatures in two weeks.
“For the first time in history, a French president has accepted to put his faith in 150 citizens selected at random, representatives of every reality in the country. They worked for nine months to propose solutions, acceptable to everyone, in order to reduce greenhouse gases to less than 40 percent by 2030,” Dion wrote in his petition.
“But discreetly, the government is now in the process of undoing and weakening a significant number of measures before presenting them formally to parliament members or to the French.
“This is why we are demanding today that the president keep his word and submit ‘unfiltered’ the proposals of the Citizens’ Convention on Climate to a referendum, to parliament or to direct regulatory application,” he wrote.
'I don't need to be lectured'
Macron rebuked his critics in an interview with the French online media outlet Brut on Friday, accusing them of not being willing to see that some of the points needed to be discussed further.
“I don’t need to be lectured to on climate,” Macron said, listing some of the issues that his government has tackled. “No-one has done as much as this government has in three years.”
He insisted on the great respect he had for the work of the citizens’ convention, but added, “you can’t say that because 150 citizens wrote something, it’s the Bible or the Koran!” he exclaimed. “I’m really very angry at those activists who helped me at first but are now saying – you need to adopt it all.”
“These are not issues on which we can say, ‘take it or leave it’ – that’s wrong,” Macron added.
Grégoire Fraty, co-president of “The 150”, an association of 130 of the 150 citizens who took in the CCC, said after Macron's interview, “We didn’t get much information on the substance, even if the president did point out the seriousness of our proposals.”
“What I did retain is that not everything has been decided. We will present ideas, and if we can weigh-in, we will,” he was quoted by AFP as saying.
Dion, feeling targeted by Macron on Friday, shot back with an open letter in the daily Le Monde on Saturday, reminding the president of his promises.
“For this democratic initiative to work, it is essential that you commit to taking up the proposals resulting from the citizens' deliberation ‘as is’ in order to submit them to the French people or to the MPs. For a simple reason. For years, politicians organised ‘participatory democracy’ that was a sham. Citizens are consulted and then elected officials, very often, do nothing. Experts are appointed, work hard ... and then their recommendations are ignored, unraveled, weakened,” he wrote.
Cécile Duflot, director general of Oxfam France, on Monday decried the fact that France was not doing enough to protect the environment and said the public quarrel between Macron and Dion was not what would advance matters.
“It’s not words that will change anything,” Duflot, formerly the head of EELV, told France Inter radio.
“There have been a lot of missed opportunities. Nicolas Hulot [who served as environment minister at the beginning of Macron’s presidency] resigned precisely because of that. Before the carbon tax was passed, he warned that social compensation would be necessary otherwise it wouldn’t pass,” she said.
The Citizens’ Convention for Climate was originally established as part of government efforts to quell the “Yellow Vest” anti-government protests that erupted in response to Macron’s carbon tax on diesel.
“French policy in recent years has been somewhat green and somewhat brown,” Duflot said. “When we subsidise fossil fuels but at the same time make some policies that go in the right direction, in the end we stay at the same point,” she added.
The 21-year-old Tunisian national, was shot and seriously injured by police after the October 29 attack. He was placed under formal investigation after his condition in hospital improved, allowing him to be questioned.
France last month raised its attack alert to the highest level after the Nice killings, which came two weeks after the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee for having shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of speech.
Aouissaoui had arrived in Europe from Tunisia in September, first crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and then crossing into France overland.
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