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Riviera jeweller held under house arrest

A French jeweller who shot dead a teenager who held him up at gunpoint was under house arrest at a secret location Saturday after being charged with his murder.

Riviera jeweller held under house arrest
Photo: JC Magnenet/AFP

Stephan Turk, 67, shot his 18-year-old victim in the back as he and another robber were fleeing on a scooter with gems stolen from Turk's shop in the centre of Nice on the French Riviera.

The thieves had punched and kicked the jeweller before forcing him to open his safe at gunpoint, behaviour that Turk's supporters believe should be taken into account when judging his heat-of-the-moment decision to run after them and fire three shots as they sped away from his shop.

The two examining magistrates in charge of the investigation did not agree.

After a court hearing, Turk was charged with murder on Friday evening but released from custody on condition that he stays at an agreed residence and wears an electronic tag.

"Armed, aggressive thugs attacked me," Turk said in a brief statement to French television. "I regret what happened, I regret that he is dead. But it is him who decided to do what he did. It is normal that I would defend myself."

If convicted of voluntary homicide, the jeweller could spend the rest of his life in prison, and his fate has triggered a national debate over what constitutes reasonable self-defence.

By Saturday morning, a Facebook page set up in Turk's support had attracted nearly a million "Likes".

French law allows for killers to escape conviction for murder if they can show they acted in "legitimate defence".

But the prosecutor who recommended Turk be charged does not believe that can be applied in this case as the jeweller's life did not appear to be in immediate danger when he fired an unlicensed semi-automatic pistol.

The jeweller reportedly told the magistrates that he had fired his first two shots with the intention of demobilising the scooter and a third one in response to his victim threatening to shoot at him with a rifle.

The dead teenager had a string of previous convictions for assault, theft and driving offences.

The strong reaction to the case reflects widespread exasperation in France with current levels of gun crime and a perception that the perpetrators of violent robberies get off too lightly.

Mainstream politicians have generally avoided comment on the case, saying it is a matter for the courts. But it has been seized upon by the far-right Front National.

"When people feel obliged to defend themselves with such dramatic consequences, it is a sign that they no longer have any confidence in the state or the forces of order," FN leader Marine Le Pen said Saturday.

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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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