Ernest Moret, foreign rights manager for the French publisher Éditions La Fabrique, has been released from custody by U.K. police after about 24 hours of detainment.

Moret was arrested on April 18 while en route to the London Book Fair at London's St. Pancras Station, where he had arrived from Paris. According to a joint statement from La Fabrique and Verso Books, he was stopped by plainclothes counterterrorism officers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on the basis of his participation in protests in France against pension reform.

He was detained for questioning without a lawyer present and was interrogated for several hours, during which time investigators asked him "disturbing questions" about his point of view on pension reform in France, the French government, the Covid crisis, and Emmanuel Macron, the publishers said in their statement. La Fabrique and Verso Books identified one line of questioning as particularly concerning, in which Moret was asked to name "anti-government" authors included in the La Fabrique catalog.

​The detaining officers then demanded that Moret surrender his phone and passwords, and when he refused, they formally arrested him and accused him of obstruction of justice, according to the publishers. "To ask the representative of a publishing house questions, in a counterterrorism framework, about the opinions of its authors, is to take the logic of political censorship and repression of dissenting currents of thought even further," said the joint statement. "In a context of the authoritarian escalation of the French government faced by social movements, this element is chilling."

As of today, Moret has been released from custody on "police bail," meaning no money was required for his release, but in four weeks he must appear in London before the British counterterrorism unit. His phone and work computer are still in the possession of the police, the publisher said. Upon his release, planned protests in London were canceled.

La Fabrique and Verso warned that Moret's "case sets a precedent for anyone who does intellectual work and whose output may be deemed inconvenient by those in power." The two publishers are demanding that all proceedings and prosecution against the foreign rights manager are dropped, his belongings are returned, and that no new action be taken against him.