The American bass player Kent Carter and his wife, the Danish dancer Michala Marcus, live at the end of long dirt track road in the middle of the countryside ? their nearest big town being Angoulême in the department of Charente in the south-west of France. Besides their own house, the only other house at their end of the road belongs to some friends of theirs. They rent it out as a gîte.
In March they were phoned from a tourist office, by some people who wanted to rent it for a month. They agreed to this, as they had no reason to suspect the people who wanted to rent, and it is not usual to ask for papers for such a short term deal. Unfortunately, unknown to them, the renters were two of the leading lights of ETA ? the separatist Basque terrorist organisation.
On Friday April 2, both houses were raided by armed police, who handcuffed Kent & Michala (as well as the ETA men). The properties were searched thoroughly, and computers, computer CDRs, diaries and passports were confiscated. Late at night, Kent & Michala were taken to extremely crude police cells in Angoulême.
On Sunday morning they were transferred to a prison in Paris, where they were interrogated at great length without a lawyer (and given a little appalling food). They basically could not answer any of the questions, since, essentially being pacifists, they have no connections with any terrorist organisations. So they were released on Tuesday ? separately onto the streets of Paris without any money or a phone. Fortunately, their son lives in Paris, so they were able to link up with him and then with each other.
However, they are still under judicial control, and have not had their passports and other things returned. They are forbidden to leave France, which means that Michala cannot visit her 89 year old father in Denmark, and Kent was unable to fulfil some concert engagements in Germany & Lithuania. They even have to ask permission from a judge via their lawyer to leave Charante, which means they are forced to plan their every move, and have to think before accepting an invitation outside the department.
Kent?s computer has long been declared clean ? he reckons the most dangerous things on it were the collection of jokes he?d been sent by email over the years ? but it has still not been returned, and he has since had to purchase a new one. As well as this loss of property and work, they have also had to hire an expensive lawyer to try and get the remaining shackles removed. They normally just about manage to get by financially, so this has really messed up their finances. Many friends and neighbours have been very supportive, and even organised a benefit concert for them.
While the French government took a correct stand regarding the invasion of Iraq, this doesn?t excuse these excesses in the so-called war against terrorism. Since Kent & Michala are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, they should immediately have their remaining restrictions of movement removed, and their confiscated items returned. They should also be compensated to cover their extra expenses and loss of earnings, as well as the trauma they have suffered by their treatment as ?terrorists?.
Please give this case as much publicity as possible. Please contact the French authorities (such as the local embassy) about it. And please give this wonderful pair support by sending messages to email@example.com.
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