Lafarge case uncovers French duplicity, hypocrisy, says analyst

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The case of French cement big Lafarge and its alleged hyperlinks with the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria has prompted a seamless debate in France across the complicity of multinationals in financing armed teams.

It additionally raised questions in regards to the accountability of the French state and on Paris’s actions when it got here throughout details about the workings of the cement producer in ISIL-occupied Syria.

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On Tuesday, France’s high courtroom overturned a call by a decrease courtroom to dismiss expenses introduced towards Lafarge for complicity in crimes towards humanity in Syria’s civil battle.

The ruling by the Court of Cassation marked a serious setback for Lafarge, which is accused of paying nearly 13 million euros ($15.3m) to armed teams, together with ISIL, to maintain its cement manufacturing facility in northern Syria operating by the early years of the nation’s battle.

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Lafarge, which merged with Swiss firm Holcim in 2015 to turn into the world’s largest cement maker, has been beneath formal investigation in France for its efforts to maintain a manufacturing facility operating in Syria after the battle erupted in 2011.

French ‘complicity’

According to paperwork revealed by the French day by day Liberation and Turkey’s Anadolu Agency over the previous weeks, French intelligence officers had been conscious of an settlement between Lafarge and ISIL in 2014.

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Liberation’s report revealed {that a} doc from the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE), dated 26 August 2014 and labelled as “confidential defence” confirmed that the French state “was well aware of the conditions under which Lafarge maintained its activity in Syria, in territory partly occupied by the Islamic State”.

“It is a document that leaves no room for doubt,” the French paper mentioned. “An agreement was found between the cement manufacturer and IS for the continuation of the commercial activity,” it added.

According to Anadolu Agency’s report, relations between Lafarge and French intelligence companies began on January 22, 2014, when the corporate’s safety director Jean-Claude Veillard despatched an e-mail to the inside ministry’s intelligence directorate.

In his e-mail, Veillard mentioned the corporate wanted to keep up relations with “local actors” to have the ability to proceed its operations in Syria.

Recalling the destructive information that appeared in regards to the firm, he requested whether or not executives and the headquarters of the corporate had been beneath risk.

According to paperwork revealed by Anadolu Agency, there have been greater than 30 conferences between Lafarge and the French home, international and navy intelligence providers between 2013 and 2014 alone.

“Lafarge seemingly kept their presence in Syria open with the knowledge and complicity of the French state for espionage and intelligence-gathering purposes,” mentioned Tallha Abdulrazaq, an instructional specialising in counterterrorism and safety on the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.

“To do so, it needed to pay money to ISIS for the right to continue production, to pay tolls in order to secure free passage, and it even seemingly purchased raw materials from ISIS necessary for cement production,” mentioned Abdulrazaq.

French ‘hypocrisy’

According to Abdulrazaq, France’s actions surrounding the cement big present hypocrisy within the nation’s approach in the direction of its Muslim group, which at greater than 5 million folks is the biggest in Europe.

The ruling within the Lafarge case comes as a trial of unprecedented scale began in France this week over the November 2015 assaults in Paris that killed some 130 folks and wounded lots of of others.

The incident concerned gunmen with suicide vests attacking six bars and eating places, the Bataclan live performance corridor and a sports activities stadium, leaving deep scars on the nation’s psyche.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest bid to manage Islam within the nation has been met with criticism, with some observers claiming the minority is being collectively punished for the actions of a fringe group that has carried out assaults.

Macron on October 2 final yr mentioned Islam was a faith “in crisis” globally as he outlined plans for a brand new legislation aimed toward tackling what he known as “Islamist separatism”.

On October 16, 47-year-old instructor Samuel Paty was beheaded in a middle-class Paris suburb. He had proven his college students the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on free speech.

On October 29, three folks had been stabbed to dying in a knife assault at a church within the southern metropolis of Nice. Macron branded each assaults “Islamist terrorism”.

“France is duplicitous primarily for targeting Muslims domestically through Islamophobic legislation that seeks to limit their freedoms and silence them at a grassroots level by ‘otherising’ them as separate from French society, and all in the name of fighting terrorism,” mentioned Abdulrazaq.

“Meanwhile, the French are actively involved in granting permission to a multinational corporation to conduct business to the tune of tens of millions of dollars to one of the most violent and notorious extremist jihadist groups in the world,” he added. “The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping.”

Colluding pursuits

Lafarge, whose Syrian subsidiary paid the armed teams by intermediaries, was charged in 2018 with endangering the lives of former staff on the cement plant in Jalabiya, northern Syria.

On November 18, 2018, an intelligence officer, code-named AM 02, appeared in courtroom and admitted that Lafarge was his supply of data in Syria, reported Anadolu Agency.

The intelligence officer advised the decide how the French secret providers took benefit of the Lafarge manufacturing facility.

“We approached the situation purely opportunistically, taking advantage of Lafarge’s continued work,” the intelligence officer mentioned within the courtroom.

In the data, the intelligence officer didn’t exclude Daesh (ISIL), saying Lafarge despatched cement to all armed teams in Syria (together with the al-Nusra Front) in 2012-2014.

With the equipped cement, ISIL reportedly constructed fortified shelters and tunnel networks towards the US-led coalition.

According to Abdulrazaq, “ISIL at the time was trying to run a quasi-state, so cement would have been important as a construction material in both civil and military applications.”

According to French media, the corporate additionally equipped supplies and gas to the armed group for it to proceed its actions within the Jalabiya area.

In November 2019, an appeals courtroom dropped the crimes towards humanity expenses after discovering 4 rights organisations couldn’t act as plaintiffs within the case.

Lafarge has since acknowledged that its Syrian subsidiary paid middlemen to barter with armed teams to permit the motion of workers and items contained in the battle zone.

But it denies any accountability for the cash winding up within the fingers of the teams and has fought to have the case dropped.

It was ordered to present $35m to French authorities as a safety deposit earlier than the trial.

French coverage

France entered its pre-election season this month.

It will select the ultimate presidential candidates earlier than the April vote, as polls present the presidential runoff will pit the centrist Macron towards the far-right Marine Le Pen in a repeat of the final election.

Although Macron’s approval rankings have grown in latest months over his dealing with of the coronavirus disaster, the revelations introduced ahead by the Lafarge case might have a detrimental impact on his recognition.

“The French government’s knowledge of and complicity in financing ISIS’s terrorist operations will not sit well with French voters. After all, ISIS has been responsible for some of the gravest terror attacks on French soil,” mentioned Abdulrazaq.

Furthermore, the most recent findings would possibly empower the Syrian authorities whose Russian-backed forces had been accused in a 2020 Amnesty International report of actions that quantity to “war crimes”.

“The narrative will be clear – the West has conspired to unleash terrorists on Syrian soil,” mentioned Abdulrazaq. “The French government has provided the Syrian regime with a further justification for its crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

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