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French far left political leader guilty of shoving police officer

A French court on Monday handed a suspended jail term of three months to far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon over his conduct during a raid on his party offices last year, when he shoved a police officer and a prosecutor.

French far left political leader guilty of shoving police officer
Photo: AFP

Melenchon, leader of the France Unbowed (LFI) party, was convicted on charges of rebellion and provocation by the court in Bobigny outside Paris and ordered to pay a fine of €8,000.

“This is a political judgement,” Melenchon said as he left the courthouse, saying he had hoped to be acquitted. He also expressed irritation at having to deal with the issue while backing the strikes against the pension reforms planned by President Emmanuel Macron.

David Lepidi, the lawyer for the police, which was a civil party in the case, said  “this affair was not politicised” and criticised the “putting in place of a smokescreen for propaganda”.

Another LFI lawmaker, Alexis Corbiere, was acquitted but its MP Bastien Lachaud, MEP Manuel Bompard and spokeswoman Muriel Rozenfeld were also handed fines of up to €7,000.

Melenchon had shoved a prosecutor and an officer in a fit of rage over police raids to search his home and party headquarters.

The searches had been carried out as part of two investigations – one into the party's use of European Parliament funds, the other into the funding of Melenchon's 2017 presidential campaign.

“The Republic, it's me, I'm the one who is a parliamentarian. Get out of the way and open up this door,” an apoplectic Melenchon shouted at the policeman standing guard outside before proceeding to try to ram the door open at his offices.

A political veteran famous for his tirades against globalisation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and elites, Melenchon enjoys a cult following among leftists but is seen as a polarising figure on the centre and right.

A slew of prominent French politicians are currently facing legal probes, notably former prime minister Francois Fillon, who will go on trial on February 24 on accusations of creating a fictitious job for his wife paid for by public funds.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen and her father, Jean-Marie, both longtime former MEPs, have both been charged with misuse of public funds in connection with salaries paid to dozens of EU parliamentary aides.

And French veteran centrist leader Francois Bayrou as well as former defence minister Sylvie Goulard have been charged in a case related to the embezzlement of European Parliament funds.

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POLITICS

French police holding 10 over Channel boat disaster

French police are holding 10 people suspected of involvement in the November 2021 Channel drowning of migrants in which 27 people died, a judicial source said on Thursday.

French police holding 10 over Channel boat disaster

One has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking, and the nine others were to be taken before a judge who will decide whether to charge them as well, the source said, asking not to be named.

Police had arrested 15 people suspected of involvement overnight Sunday to Monday, but released five of them without charges.

The death of the 27 in late November was the worst disaster in the Channel since 2018, when the narrow strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have been increasingly using small boats to reach England from France.

Among the 27 — aged seven to 47 — were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments, with President Emmanuel Macron vowing France would not allow the Channel to become a “cemetery”.

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