Maître Alain Jakubowicz, lawyer for Nordahl Lelandais: “Democracy and justice are sick, at the end of their course”

A wise head, a voice that carries. And the impeccable diction of a palace tenor, who pours out fiery revolts and unfeigned tenderness.

Maître Alain Jakubowicz, “Jaku” for those close to him, honorary president of the Licra, flirts with 70 years – including 45 of the bar – but twirls from trial to trial, becoming one with each case of which he makes a point of honor to know the slightest jolt. The lawyer, registered with the bar of Lyon, is famous, among other things, for having defended the Jewish consistory of France during the trial of Klaus Barbie, Paul Touvier and Maurice Papon, or the association of the families of the victims at the trial of the Mont Blanc tunnel disaster.

Last January and February, he defended Nordahl Lelandais, accused of the murder of little Maëlys. Was it defending the indefensible, like the theme of the conference he gave in Nice, at the invitation of the president of the Bar Adrien Verrier? “Jaku” could talk about it for hours. It is also one of the subjects developed in his book “Either I win or I learn”(1).

You said, in the past, that you couldn’t defend people who would have harmed children, and you were the lawyer for Lelandais…

There are things I couldn’t do when I was 25 or 30. In my book, I tell a comment, faced with this kind of problem, I had said, and I am criticized for it enough today, that I would never defend someone accused of acts against children . I said it, it’s clear, and I was caught out…

This red line has disappeared, what has changed?

The red line is not immutable, the lawyer ages… When I said that, I was a young lawyer and a young father. I had been confronted with a dramatic file of this type. And when I got home, like all dads, I was giving my daughters a bath and I found myself stuck! I had a brain block because I saw again the images of a horrible pedophile attacking the integrity of these small victims. I can not anymore. Forgive me this image, but it’s been a long time since I gave my daughters a bath…

What is your new red line then, if you have one?

We see very well currently in the trial of the Paris attacks these wonderful colleagues, often young people elsewhere, who defend these terrorists. I wouldn’t have done it. Besides, I can tell you, I don’t know if it’s a scoop, I had been contacted by one of the accused in the November 13 trial. He had asked me to defend him and I refused. Terrorism is my red line. But, fortunately, there are wonderful lawyers who certainly have another red line, who perhaps would not have defended Nordahl Lelandais, who defend this type of defendant. And that’s fine. I don’t give lessons, so I sometimes have a little trouble admitting that people are trying to teach me.

You are also a committed citizen, you recently had a big rant on RMC: if less than one in two voters goes to the polls, the ballot must be cancelled. Provocation?

Of course, I am a provocateur. But, I really have a problem with democracy! I’m lucky to be a baby boomer, I belong to a generation where everything was easier. We had a quasi-Greek approach to democracy: democracy is the exercise of government by the people. So what is an elected parliament with less than 50% of voters? I maintain that democracy without voters is no longer democracy. It is not dictatorship, but it is no longer democracy.

And you recalled this sentence of Camus: “Be careful, when a democracy is sick, fascism comes to its bedside but it is not to hear from it”, is it that serious?

When we talk about fascism, it’s true that it’s the Camus version of the mid-20th century. You have to know how to update this kind of thing. I think it is essential to put the question of the functioning of our democracy on the table. What is democracy today? Fake news, provocations, insults, insults, is it the President of the Republic in place who refuses any democratic debate? We have fallen into a form of French-style Trumpism. It’s up to us baby boomers to be sort of guardians of the temple, lookouts. If there is one thing with which I agree with Mr. Mélenchon, and frankly there are not many yet, it is that our democracy is sick, that it is at the end of its course.

Sick from what ?

We can no longer reason on the basis of a Constitution that was made at a time when we did not vote by mail, when there were no social networks… All of this is totally anachronistic and needs be brought up to date. On a real problem: if our fellow citizens are now throwing themselves into the arms of the extremes, 50% if we count the extreme right and the extreme left, there is a reason. It’s not 50% fachos! I believed it before like everyone else, at the start of the National Front, I thought, like Bernard Tapie, that Jean-Marie Le Pen was a bastard and that those who voted for him were bastards. But that’s not it anymore, it’s people who can’t make ends meet, who can’t get enough gas, who are overdrawn on the 7th or 10th of the month. Well, I understand them. On the other hand, I understand less the politicians who ride the wave by promising things which we know very well are totally unachievable and who do exactly the opposite of what they announce.

Sick democracy, is it contagious on justice?

But of course ! And even more than elsewhere. I am also going to launch an action against the State, an action for State liability: I am currently receiving fixings for pleadings in 2026 for proceedings which have been closed for a year already! It will take place four years during which nothing happens and the magistrates explain to us that they cannot do otherwise, that they are suffocated! Yes our justice is sick, I actually blame the political world, I blame our Keeper of the Seals.

Éric Dupond-Moretti, who is one of yours, is not up to it?

I’m not going to start here to put Eric Dupond-Moretti on trial, there are enough people who do it for me. For me, he is a colleague, he was an immense colleague whom I obviously rubbed shoulders with a lot. But, in my opinion, he is not a Minister of Justice, he is a Minister of Criminal Justice.

Politicians in general, and it is not asked him to be at fault, focus all “politics-justice” according to public opinion on criminal justice. But what does this represent in relation to everyday justice, that of family affairs, rents, over-indebtedness, etc.? ? All this, no one talks about. We need a real Marshall plan for justice. There are three essential poles in a democracy: education, health and justice. Or justice is by far the poor relation of this republican triptych.

1. “Either I win or I learn – From Klaus Barbie to Nordahl Lelandais, the lawyer tells” by Maître Alain Jakubowicz, Edition Plon, 264 pages.


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