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The prison of Valenciennes

Valenciennes 1998 : the refusal to render justice

by Adriaan Bronkhorst

At the turn of the year 1997/98 I was in custody in Valenciennes for importing in France some cannabis, cocaine and LSD intended for a party more to the south. As usual, I regularly rethought my defense strategy and decided to stick with the familiar recipe that had served me so well elsewhere: putting the case in the context of the societal problem of drug use, so that the court would not have to focus on my sole person and the use of others could be put in the balance. After all, it is said that justice is also a matter of proportionality and, as the sole defendant, it was clearly my job to enable the Tribunal de Grande Instance to see the broader picture. So I warned in writing the prosecutor in charge of my case that I wanted to talk to him about the Bonnefous list, the name of the French ambassador in Brazzaville in the early 1970s, Mr. Marc Bonnefous. In his embassy, parties were organized where those present, including myself, consumed cannabis at will and would walk, high, around the gardens of Case de Gaulle, named after the former French president, who visited it during the World War II when Brazza was the capital of Free France.

The list already contained at the time of my stay in Valenciennes the names of more than a hundred international cannabinophiles, cocaphiles and others, including renowned French people. I informed the prosecutor that I wanted to report several drug-related offenses, comparable to those for which I was being prosecuted, committed by persons on the Bonnefous list, for the purposes of prosecution by the French courts. After two reminders, I still had not received any response, which was of course not surprising since once officially notified of a crime, a formal reaction from the prosecution would be necessary. Under such circumstances it is preferable that the police serves the prosecution easy-to-swallow fry, than that strangers present large ones that the prosecutors can choke on. It was obvious that the prosecution did not want to delve into the case and learn more about the truth.

And indeed, I had very big fish to present, with the highest degree of impartiality, both at the French political level and with regard to the consumption preferences of the protagonists. The perfect case, learned firsthand in 1996 concerning the transfer of power in 1995 between the ex-president Mitterand, user of marijuana and the new president Chirac, disciple of mama coca. As they used to say around Amsterdam: "la mama a chassé la marie-jeanne de l’élysée » (the mother chased Mary-Jane from the Elysée). With the consequences that flow from it because Mary-Jane dances in the sunny valleys while the mama travels the high mountain ridges.
The purpose of my intervention was not so much to directly involve people who, after all, have only done what I love to do myself, but to expose the  absurd fact that the supplies of these people as servants of the state, are organized by the services of the same French state which destroys so many other people's lifes for similar offenses. A state that grants Republican privileges, exceptions for the elite to the policy of prohibition, itself based on the lies of the 1961 Single Convention. A prohibition which makes it possible to prosecute undesirable populations on the basis of consumption preferences that the elite nevertheless share with them, with impunity. It is unfair, a violation of the  rule of law, it is a betrayal of the principles of the republic, but above all, a betrayal of one’s  countrymen and -women.

After the refusal of the public prosecutor to act, I hoped to be able to interest the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Valenciennes. I was assisted by Maître Francis Caballero, professor of criminal law at the University of Paris-Nanterre, and author of the handbook ‘Drug Law’, known for his actions in favor of the legalization of cannabis. The trial got off to a spectacular start. With all the suspects in pre-trial detention who were to appear that day handcuffed to a prison guard in the courtroom of the Tribunal, Caballero began by lambasting the judges, including two former students of his, for the illegality of this act because it overrides the principle of equality before the law and the presumption of innocence and constitutes a serious violation of the rights of the suspect. Insisting that my handcuffs be immediately removed, the lawyers for the other suspects followed suit, prompting a small revolt from the guards who refused. The session had to be interrupted to allow talks between the guards and the lawyers which resulted in a promise of further negotiations to resolve the problem for the other detainees, and the removal of my handcuffs. As the presiding judge had meanwhile lost control of the operation and the nerves in the room were highly strained, Maître Caballero was free to lecture the court on some of his favorite theories : on the illegality of the classification of cannabis, LSD and cocaine among narcotic substances, for incompetence of the Ministry of Health and on the inadmissibility of an additional fine from the Customs authorities in view of the "Non bis in idem" rule which does not tolerate double punishment for one and the same crime. But when he then wanted to elaborate on the political aspect of the trial, the president cut him off short by informing him that a lot of time had already been lost and that she could not give more time to my case without infringing the rights of the other litigants. She set the date for the verdict for a week later and, to our surprise, released me on the condition that I did not leave the country.

When, with Maître Caballero weI returned to the Tribunal on February 19, 1998, there was perplexity and disbelief on both sides. The president told us without delay that she was surprised that I had come back. She had therefore not yet rendered a verdict and told us that the only thing she wanted was for me to leave the country, and that she would give me a sentence less than the period which would oblige the State to request my extradition to France and high enough for me not to wish to return to her country.

And thus, after the prosecution, French justice itself refused to hear a case of violation of the law committed by the highest government authorities in the country. For the benefit of a small elite the rights and especially the happiness of millions of citizens are wasted with the agreement of the three branches of government. In Valenciennes, the great principles of the French Revolution were definitely sacrificed on the altar of prohibition, France's new supreme law