Ernest Moret 28, a foreign rights manager for French publisher Éditions la Fabrique, was taken into custody by two plain clothes anti-terrorist policemen as he arrived at St Pancras on a train on the evening of 17 April 2023, from Paris to attend the London Book Fair. In custody, he was questioned for six hours about his participation in protests in France, and his laptop and cell phone were seized. Refusing to reveal the passwords to the confiscated laptop and phone, he was transferred to a police station in Islington, where he remained in custody till Tuesday and was later released on bail.
His colleague Stella Magliani-Belkacem, said to The Guardian, “When we were on the platform, two people, a woman, and a guy, told us they were counter-terrorist police. They showed a paper called section 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 and said they had the right to ask him about demonstrations in France.”
Éditions la Fabrique is known for publishing radical left authors while Moret had planned more than 30 meetings at the book fair. Magliani-Belkacem told the Guardian, “When we were on the platform, two people, a woman, and a guy, told us they were counter-terrorist police. They showed a paper called section 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 and said they had the right to ask him about demonstrations in France.”
A joint press release from Verso Books based in London and Éditions la Fabrique condemned Moret’s treatment as ‘scandalous.’ It said, “The police officers claimed that Ernest had participated in demonstrations in France as a justification for this act – a quite remarkably inappropriate statement for a British police officer to make, and which seems to clearly indicate complicity between French and British authorities on this matter.” It added, “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.”
Moret’s lawyer, Richard Parry, accused the UK authorities of an “abuse of power” in their treatment of his client. Present during one of Moret’s police interviews, he said Moret was asked if he supported the French president. He was also asked whether he attended demonstrations in France against Macron’s controversial pension plans and asked to name anti-government authors in the catalog of La Fabrique. He refused to answer all these questions.
Moret returned to France after being released on Tuesday, while his iPhone and Macbook remain in the custody of the British police. He has been ordered to report to the police in four weeks.
Parry has demanded full disclosure of any involvement of the French authorities in his client’s arrest, as questions were asked in the National Assembly in France about Moret’s treatment. The French government is also being urged by French MPs to explain its role in the arrest of Moret in London on Tuesday.