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FRANCE

Traveller community riots over refusal for prisoner to attend funeral

Wreckage after Tuesday's violence in Moirans
Wreckage after Tuesday's violence in Moirans AFP

The French Alps town of Moirans was tense on Wednesday after a judge refused a prisoner's request to attend his brother's funeral. A first refusal on Tuesday led to members of the traveller community blocking a road and smashing up the train station restaurant, while a riot broke out in the jail he is being held in.

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About 200 police were deployed in the small Alpine town on Wednesday after Tuesday's violence and local officials said they would be on alert during the day.

The young men's mother, Adèle Vinterstein, had asked for the ceremony to be put off a day in the hope that a judge would allow her imprisoned son, who is serving a sentence for armed robbery, to attend.

But a court in nearby Chambéry on Wednesday morning rejected the request and Vinterstein announced that she had put off the funeral, which should have taken place that afternoon.

"I'm going to have my son's coffin brought here [to the travellers' camp]," she said. "And it won't move until my other son can come.

"I'm outraged now. There will be a scrap. I've got nothing to lose."

But a hearse arrived at the camp later in the day and a crowd assembled as if expecting the ceremony to take place.

The young man was one of three who died when a car they had stolen crashed into a tree.

A dozen vehicles were set light to in nearby Voreppes, the home town of the other two, who were not travellers.

On Tuesday travellers blocked off a road, set fire to several cars and ransacked the railway station restaurant.

And about 20 inmates at the prison, where the man was detained, at Aiton set fire to a passage and destroyed the locks on their cells, according to trade union sources, leading to a specialised unit being sent there.

Although the night was calm in Moirans, some travellers had threatened to resume the violence if the prisoner was not allowed to attend the funeral.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls reacted to Tuesday's violence will a call for "firmness" and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira described it as "totally unacceptable".

The right-wing opposition has claimed that the events show that the government has lost all authority because it is soft on crime.

At the end of August members of a travellers' community in northern France blocked a road in protest at official refusal to allow the imprisoned son of a shooting victim to attend the funeral.

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