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Protests in France: Interior minister condemns violence after 62 police officers injured

France's interior ministry said 62 police officers were injured and 81 people arrested during the nationwide protests against police violence on Saturday as a press freedom group denounced the "unacceptable" injury of an award-winning Syrian photojournalist.

Protests in France: Interior minister condemns violence after 62 police officers injured
French riot police officers take position next to a burning barricade during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, restricting sharing images of officers. November 28, 2020.AFP

Violent clashes erupted in Paris Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black music producer that shocked France.

Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law which would restrict the publication of police officers' faces.

The interior ministry said that 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, while organisers said the figure was 500,000 nationwide and 200,000 in Paris.

A press freedom group has denounced the “unacceptable” injury of an award-winning Syrian photojournalist during a Paris protest against police brutality while France's interior ministry said 62 police officers were injured and 81 people arrested during the nationwide protests.

Ameer Alhalbi, a freelance photographer who worked for Polka Magazine and AFP, was covering the weekend demonstrations opposing police violence and the French government's new law restricting sharing images of officers.

In AFP photos Alhalbi's face appears bruised with much of his head covered in bandages.

A firefighter carries on a stretcher Syrian freelance photographer Ameer Al Halbi who was injured during clashes in a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, restricting sharing images of officers.
Gabrielle Cézard / AFP

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that the 24-year-old had been wounded at Place de la Bastille by “a police baton” and condemned the violence.

“Ameer came from #Syria to #France to take refuge, like several other Syrian journalists. The land of human rights should not threaten them, but protect them,” he said in a second tweet.

Deloire also noted Alhalbi had been clearly identified as a journalist.

Dimitri Beck, director of photography for Polka, said that Alhalbi had suffered a broken nose and injured forehead, and had been taken to hospital.

A statement from Polka magazine also condemned the “police aggression” against Alhalbi. The magazine's Director of Publication Alain Genestar said the incident was “all the more shocking and reprehensible” because he was clearly identified as a press photographer.

Phil Chetwynd, AFP's global news director has urged the police to investigate. “We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,”

“We demand the police investigate this serious incident and ensure all journalists are allowed to carry out their work without fear or restrictions,” said Chetwynd.

Alhalbi has won several international awards, including second prize in the “Spot News” category for the World Press Photo in 2017, mainly for his coverage of the Syrian conflict in his home city Aleppo for AFP.

Police said on Sunday that two demonstrators had complained of being hurt by officers in protests outside Paris, while no count had yet been made in the capital itself.

Some 62 police officers were injured during the Saturday demonstrations, the interior ministry said, while 81 people were arrested.

A French riot police officer lies on the ground after falling during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, which Article 24 would criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their 'physical or psychological integrity', in Paris, on November 28, 2020.  THOMAS COEX / AFP

Protesters throw a firework to riot police officers during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, November 28, 2020. THOMAS COEX / AFP

A number of videos shared online showed marchers beating police officers.

France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday condemned “unacceptable” violence against police in protests nationwide.

EXPLAINEDThe new French law that restricts photos and videos of police officers

UPDATE: Thousands protest across France against police violence

 

 

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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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