• France's news in English
Corsica beach clashes: Five men handed jail sentences
Crowds of local Corsicans gather outside court this week. Photo: AFP

Corsica beach clashes: Five men handed jail sentences

AFP/The Local · 16 Sep 2016, 08:15

Published: 16 Sep 2016 08:15 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A Corsica court sentenced five men to up to two years in prison Friday over a mass beach brawl on the French Mediterranean island, that reportedly began after tourists took pictures of Muslim bathers.

The violence last month in Sisco, in the island's north, left five people injured, prompting the mayor of the village to ban the Islamic burkini swimsuit initially thought to have been at the centre of the row.

Around 100 police were deployed to quell the August 13 clashes between locals and families of North African origin from another part of the island.

The blame for who started the brawl, that according to prosecutors so nearly ended in "tragedy and disaster", has been difficult to attribute as both sides pointed the finger at the other.

But in court Mustapha Benhaddou, was portrayed as the "spark" and was accused of trying to privatize the cove for his family. He apparently took offense to tourists taking photos from the roadside.

(The cove where the violent confrontation took place near Sisco. AFP)

A group of local youths then headed down to the cove and confronted Benhaddou, who admitted slapping one of them. That was the trigger for villagers to descend on the cove for what the prosecutor described as a "collective lynching".

Benhaddou was sentenced to two years in prison for armed violence, while his brothers Abdelillah and Jamal both received suspended sentences of six months.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the court in Bastia on Thursday to support two local men who faced charges over the incident alongside three brothers of Moroccan origin.

Villagers Lucien Straboni and Pierre Baldi were handed suspended sentences of one year and eight months respectively.

Of the brothers only Mustapha was present in court, the others telling their lawyers they feared for their safety following several anti-Islam demonstrations and attacks on the island.

"There are fractures in French and Corsican society, but those are not what we are dealing with in this case, which concerns a simpler, seedier problem," prosecutor Nicolas Bessone told the court.

The clashes came amid heightened tension in France after a string of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, including the July 14 massacre in the southern city of Nice when a Tunisian ploughed a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

In Corsica last December, angry protesters vandalised a Muslim prayer hall and trashed copies of the Koran after an assault on firefighters that was blamed on local youths of Arab origin.

Story continues below…

Sisco is one of around 30 French towns that have moved to ban the burkini, though the country's top administrative court has suspended the move in most cases.

But the local administrative council ignored the ruling by the council of state and allowed Sisco to keep its burkini ban, saying it was justified on public order grounds -- even though prosecutors ruled out any connection between the beach brawl and the full-body swimsuit.

Sisco's mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni described the court's ruling as "a relief for me and local people".

He has told AFP that he brought in the ban because he "risked having deaths on my hands".

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available