26 JANUARY 1962, Page 10

Sta,—I have too great a respect for Mr. Darsie Gillie

lightly to contradict him; the questions he raises are too important to be answered with verbal sleight-of-hand. The court which will try the French- men (who are to have French counsel) will have something to say as to their status. Meanwhile, the Times of January lfi, in an article hardly friendly to Egypt, admits that the issue is unclear. While stating the substance of Mr. Gillic's argument, to the effect that the French mission were given immunity by the note of March, 1959, the Times. adds: 'In September, 1959, however, the VAR promulgated a law allowing exemption for both missions only in the performance of their duties [my italics]. Seeing that the French Government claims judicial immunity for its accused citizens, a great deal turns on whether the Note of March, 1959, takes precedence over the later law; and probably also on interpretation of the French mission's duties.'

The way in which the kidnappers of Eichmann acted in Argentina (where Israel enjoyed friendly relations) shows to what extent believers in a cause will go in defying diplomatic niceties. France, where a section of society plot to murder their President, does not enjoy friendly relations with Egypt. What more natural than that the Egyptians should be wary of conceding, through quasi-diplomatic status, the possibilities for an analogous operation?

As to the TV film made of the alleged spies: it was shown, not within weeks, but within hours of the arrests being made. The young woman secretary, who had typed the reports alleging that Nasser's portraits were being burnt in the streets; spoke with vivacity; she was later sent home scot-free to France, where, so far as I have heard: she has made no allegations of ill-treatment. Others admitted (one in Arabic) that their handwritten confessions were spontaneous and that the captured documents were genuine.

The Egyptians might have been wiser to act as Mr. Gillie suggests, if only because their booming tourist industry may boom less, if blue-rinsed widows link the Nile-Hilton with espionage. But France—the per- sonification of unwisdom in so many acts since 1956 —is not in a position to lecture an Arab State while sixty Arab corpses are fished from the Seine—and not one policeman is put under arrest.


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