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France ‘grants’ political asylum to Femen leader

France might not have been keen on granting political asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden but it emerged on Monday that Paris has agreed to take in Inna Shevchenko, the Ukranian leader of militant feminist organization Femen.

France 'grants' political asylum to Femen leader
Inna Shevchecnko leads a Femen protest in Paris. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The head of the French branch of radical topless feminist group Femen, Ukrainian Inna Shevchenko, said Monday that Paris had granted her request for political asylum.

Shevchenko told AFP she had received notification from France's OFPRA refugee agency that her request had been granted, based on fears that she would face persecution in Ukraine for her political activities.

The 23-year-old said she had made a "strategic choice" to seek asylum in France. "To develop the movement, we need a place, we need a country," she said.

The agency refused to comment, saying information on asylum requests was confidential. But OFPRA documents seen by AFP said the decision to grant Shevchenko asylum had been taken on April 9.

Shevchenko said she fears persecution in Ukraine after she sawed down a large wooden cross that stood in the centre of Kiev.

The stunt was intended to support Russian band Pussy Riot, whose members were jailed last year for their "punk prayer" protest against President Vladimir Putin's close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Shevchenko made the request for asylum after arriving in France last August on a tourist visa. She subsequently set up a "training centre" for Femen activists in Paris and the group has carried out a number of protests in the city.

Founded in Ukraine in 2008, Femen is a self-declared "radical feminist" group known for its topless protests against sexual exploitation of women, sexism and religious institutions.

Its protests have sparked widespread controversy in France and beyond, most notably hen members of the group stripped off at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to bid adieu to Pope Benedict.

They have also caused uproar in Tunisia where three European women were jailed for baring their breasts in public during a protest in support of a detained Tunisian Femen activist.

The three were released from prison and returned to Paris late last month after apologising for their actions.

On Friday police in Turkey arrested a Femen activist who had staged a topless protest at an Istanbul airport to denounce Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious conservatism.

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FEMEN

Topless protesters held in bid to ‘welcome’ Trump to Paris

French police on Sunday arrested three topless rights protesters who approached the motorcade of US President Donald Trump on the Champs-Elysees in Paris heading to a ceremony marking 100 years since the end of World War I.

Topless protesters held in bid to 'welcome' Trump to Paris
A Femen is dragged out of the way by French police. Photo: Sam Loeb/AFP
One of the protesters, who had slogans including “fake peacemakers” and “hypocrisy parade” written on their chests, got within metres of the rear of the motorcade after jumping over a barricade.
   
She was grabbed by a police officer, while a second woman could be seen being hauled away by security services on the edge of the famous thoroughfare.    A third woman, who was positioned a little higher up the avenue, also managed to breach the security cordon and run towards Trump's convoy with her arms raised.
   
She too was quickly overpowered by the police and all three were arrested. 
 
The incident revealed chinks in the tight security put in place for the event, with some 10,000 security force members deployed around a city which has been hit by a series of jihadist attacks since 2015.
   
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Trump's security had “in no way been threatened”.
   
Inna Shevchenko, one of the leaders of radical feminist group Femen, confirmed the group was behind the protest.
 
Constance Lefèvre, another activist who was among the crowd but did not participate in the protest, told AFP that Femen was protesting the presence in Paris of leaders “who are responsible for most of the world's conflicts”.
   
She cited Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among others.
   
Trump's motorcade briefly paused due to the breach of security before continuing on to the Arc de Triomphe where around 70 world leaders had gathered to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
   
Three Femen protesters had already demonstrated at the Arc De Triomphe on Saturday morning to denounce the presence of “war criminals” among the guests at the ceremony.
   
The three were also arrested.
 
Femen activists also protested earlier on Saturday outside L'Arc de Triomphe. Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP
 
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