Julien Coupat (born June 4, 1974, Bordeaux) is a French political activist at the centre of a controversial investigation. As one of the Tarnac Nine, he was accused of plotting the sabotage of train lines in November 2008, which the French government decided to define as terrorism, and spent over six months in jail despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever before being released on bail.
Julien Coupat is the son of a medical doctor and an executive at Sanofi-Aventis. After studying business at the École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales (ESSEC), he switched to social sciences at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) but did not complete his doctorate. In 1999, he co-founded a radical philosophy magazine called Tiqqun before setting up a commune in 2005 in the village of Tarnac in the Corrèze department where he and his friends ran a farm and an all-purpose store. Coupat and his girlfriend Yildune Lévy came to the attention of the FBI after protesting outside an army recruitment centre in New York City, which was later the target of a bomb attack, having crossed the border from Canada illicitly. The Bureau flagged the pair up to their French counterparts, who began investigating the group.
The TGV sabotage affair
On the night of 7–8 November 2008, Coupat and Lévy went for a car ride and played cat-and-mouse with police cars following them. Their trip included a 20-minute stop in Dhuisy, in the Seine-et-Marne department, by their account for a sex session in the vehicle. Their car was parked near a train line in one of the locations where iron hooks were left dangling from the overhead lines that night, paralysing the high-speed TGV network.
On November 11, gendarmes raided the Tarnac farm and arrested nine residents in connection with the sabotage. Four of the nine were released on November 15, under conditions. A further three were released on December 2, and the last but one, Lévy, in January 2009. Coupat remained in jail until May 28, 2009, when he was released under bail with instructions to remain in the Paris region and have no contacts with the other 8.
The arrests were publicly greeted by Interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie who described the suspects as "an anarcho-autonomist cell" and Coupat as its leader. A judge first ordered Coupat's release on December 19, 2008, but the judicial services immediately appealed, using a highly unusual procedure. Controversy erupted and inflated in the next six months over government spin on the case, Coupat's repeated failure to secure a release on bail despite investigators having no evidence against him, and the nature of the charges against him, when the acts of sabotage were not of a nature to cause bodily harm to anyone. The French police said he was part of the Invisible Committee of the book The Coming Insurrection, which was denied by the publisher and Julien Coupat himself.
- Appointments at the Communications Department of the sanofi-aventis Group, PR News Wire, 22 septembre 2004
- « Julien Coupat, étudiant brillant et chef présumé des saboteurs », NouvelObs.com, 18 novembre 2008.
- SNCF : Julien Coupat, itinéraire du supposé saboteur, Le Point, 2 décembre 2008
- Ce que contient le dossier d'instruction, Le Monde 25 March 2009
- Chronology Le Monde
- « Un pas vers la liberté pour Julien Coupat », Libération, 20 décembre 2008