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CRIME

Murder accused strips in front of court

A Frenchman accused of the 2008 murder of a Swedish student on Friday delayed the resumption of his trial by taking off all his clothes.

"The accused is naked," the gendarme responsible for bringing Bernard Cholet, 55, into court was obliged to tell judge Xavière Simeoni following a 90-minute delay in the start of proceedings.

"Can't you put him in a straitjacket," the exasperated judge snapped before warning: "He can appear naked if he wants and he will be charged with exposing himself."

The judge's firm tone had the desired effect. Cholet, who was in a holding cell, duly got dressed and took his place in the dock.

The accused was taken sick on the opening day of the trial and has since been staying in hospital, where he claims not to have been fed properly. Friday's protest followed a request for him to be returned to prison.

Cholet, who has previous convictions for rape and armed robbery, is accused of kidnapping and killing Susanna Zetterberg, a 19-year-old student from Stockholm, after picking her up in his unlicensed taxi outside a Paris nightclub in April 2008.

He denies the charge and claims police fabricated evidence used to indict him.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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