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Taser's French distributor cuffed in commie spying case

Liberté, fraternité, électricité

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The French distributor of Taser-brand cattleprod stunguns has been arrested along with nine other suspects - including policemen and private detectives - for allegedly spying on a communist politician.

Various French and worldwide media reported on the arrests, which follow an investigation by L'Express magazine. The magazine looked into the matter after complaints of being followed and spied upon by Olivier Besancenot, outsider presidential candidate in 2007 and spokesman for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) party.

The long-running affair has pitted Besancenot against Antoine Di Zazzo, head of SMP Technologies, which distributes Taser stunguns in France. SMP is engaged in legal action against Besancenot for publicising cases in which people have died after being Tasered.

Radio France Internationale quotes the leftist politician as saying that Di Zazzo is "seeking €50,000 from me just because I drew attention to an Amnesty International report". Amnesty International has repeatedly called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers.

Investigators suspect that Di Zazzo engaged a private detective agency run by a former police officer to spy on Besancenot. It is alleged that improper access to bank accounts and vehicle registration data may have taken place, and that intrusive surveillance may have been used.

Taser International, based in Arizona, was quick to distance itself from Di Zazzo.

"Antoine is purely a distributor in France," company spokesman Steve Tuttle told the Arizona Republic.

"He is not an employee in any way, shape or form."

Besancenot has said that the case illustrates the dangers of uncontrolled state surveillance, and believes it will provide ammunition against upcoming French legislation intended to widen government spying powers.

There was no report of the French cops needing Tasers to subdue Di Zazzo and his associates. ®

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