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American transgender woman among anti-fascists convicted for violent attack on French police

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American transgender woman among anti-fascists convicted for violent attack on French police
Photo: AFP
12:49 CEST+02:00
An American transgender woman was among several 'anti-fascist' militants handed jail sentences on Wednesday for attacking and torching a police car in Paris during an anti-cop protest.

Nine anti-fascist activists, including an American national, had been on trial in Paris for a violent attack on French police that was captured in a shocking video that made headlines around the world. 

On Wednesday, two of the accused were cleared by a judge, but the other seven were handed jail sentences ranging from one to seven years for the May 2016 assault that saw youths dressed in black with their faces covered attacking and setting fire to a police car in Paris, while two officers were inside.

Among the anti-fascists handed prison terms was Kara Brault, a 27-year-old transgender American national who had admitted to smashing a metal post through the rear window of the vehicle. 

She was handed a four-year prison sentence, two of which are suspended.

Given that she has been behind bars for 16 months already, she is likely to stay in a French jail for another eight months, before being released on remand.

Prosecutors had also asked for her to be barred from France for three years.

Kara Brault declined to give evidence at the trial, preferring to exercise her right to silence, however according to French media reports she told judges at a previous hearing: "I'm sorry. I was stupid."

Prosecutors had said Brault was unemployed and staying with friends, having arrived only recently in France. 

After the attack she disappeared but was later arrested at another Paris protest against the then government's labour reforms.

The trial shed light on how transgender prisoners are held in France. Brault's lawyer criticized the conditions of her detention.

"My client has been detainted in solitary confinement for 16 months, because in France, trans people are automatically placed in isolation," said her lawyer Pauline Picarda.

Brault was kept in a cell 22 hours a day and had no other contact with other prisoners and was denied the right to exercise, her lawyer said.

French authorities said she was placed in isolation to protect her from being attacked by other prisoners, reported France's Buzzfeed news.

The harshest sentence was handed out to a Joachim Landwehr who is believed to be on the run in Switzerland. He faces seven years behind bars if police catch up with him.

Antonin Bernanos, who had the highest profile among the accused given that he is the son of French author George Bernanos, was handed a five year sentence, two of which were suspended.

Those convicted who were not yet in custody were not jailed immediately but will be summoned at a later date by a judge.

The trial took place amid high security and riot police were out in force on Wednesday as the sentences were handed out. While the lawyers and families of the defendants claimed the punishments were harsh, police had been eager for the court to set an example.

In recent years protests against labour reforms in France have regularly turned violent and have seen anti-fascist and anarchist groups clash with French riot police. Images of a policeman in flames after being hit by a petrol bomb made headlines around the world after a protest earlier this year.

Violence mars pre-election May Day marches in France

 

The attack on the police car too place on the same day police officers had been protesting against the violence they are subject to.

One of the officers in the car, named Kevin Philippy earned the nickname "Kung-fu Cop" after he was seen in the video defending himself with his bare hands against an attacker wielding a metal pole.

As the mob came across the police car by chance one of them was heard shouting: "There's cops, come one, let's f**k them up" (Venez, on va les niquer).

A female officer, named Allison Barthelemy has told of how she thought was going to die.

The attackers, who included students and teaching assistants, initially faced charges of attempted murder of a person holding public office but the charges were reclassified to "aggravated violence against police officers".

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