A Facebook page for France’s “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests movement) claims that the police have received an order to take into custody as many protesters as possible on 25 May, so as to prevent them voting in the European elections the following day.
The prospect of the 26 May election is clearly worrying both France’s interior ministry and the yellow vests movement. Interior minister Christophe Castaner recently alluded to the possibility of protesters picketing polling stations, while certain protestors fear their vote being suppressed by arrests on eve of the election.
“Orders have been given to police to make as many arrests as possible on Saturday 25th [May] so as to prevent gilets jaunes voting!”, thus claims a viral message on a Facebook group of yellow vests. For several weeks many such pages linked to the movement have been calling for a massive electoral turnout against the governing party La République en Marche.
Contacted by French newspaper 20 Minutes, the national police denied the existence of any such orders. “We have received no orders to arrest ‘gilets jaunes’ in order to prevent them voting”, said its communications office. However, it confirmed that “a person placed in custody cannot vote”, while pointing out that “the procedure for placing [people] in custody is regulated by the criminal procedure code and cannot be decided without legal grounds”.
Indeed, article 62-2 of the criminal procedure code stipulates that such detention is “a restriction measure decided by a police officer empowered to make arrests [officier de police judiciaire], under the supervision of the legal authorities, by which a person, for whom there exist one or several plausible reasons to suspect [the person] of having committed or tried to commit a crime or offense punishable by imprisonment, is detained at the disposal of investigators”.
Detention is limited to 24 hours but can be extended with the approval of a magistrate. In the case of the EU elections, the assumption is that protesters would be detained late enough on Saturday 25 May as to stop them reaching the polling station before its closing – or to have their custody extended, if legal grounds existed. In February, 59 lawyers denounced on radio station France Info “so-called ‘frivolous’ extensions of detention” affecting yellow vests.
The police communications office adds that “it is the state prosecutor [procureur de la République] who declares the end of a detention, not the police officer”.
Translation by Harry Bowden, VoxEurop