Anarchists jailed for burning police car during protests

A Paris court on Wednesday gave prison sentences to seven far-left activists associated with the burning of a police car during protests against the previous government's labour reform in 2016. The longest term behind bars was given to a Swiss man who is currently on the run.

A courtroom sketch of the defendants on Wednesday 11 October
A courtroom sketch of the defendants on Wednesday 11 October Patrick Kovarik /AFP

Swiss national Joachim Landwehr was found to have been the man who actually set fire to the vehicle by throwing a teargas grenade into it and sentenced to seven years in prison.

But he was not in court and is currently sought by police.

The attack happened on the fringes of a demonstration by police officers against "anti-cop hatred" during protests against the Socialist government's changes to labour law.

Video viewed by millions

A video of the car bursting into flames and its two occupants leaping out to be confronted by black-clad anarchists was viewed by millions of people on the internet, causing an outcry that prompted the interior ministry to call for exemplary sentences.

Transgender American Kara Brault was sentenced to two years in prison and two years suspended, while Ari Rustenholz was sentenced to two and a half years and the same time suspended.

They were found to have broken the car's windows with a bollard while the police officers were still inside.

Nicolas Fensch, who hit an officer with a metal bar, was sentenced to five years, two and a half suspended.

Antonin Bernanos, an antifascist activist who is the great grandson of famous French writer Georges Bernanos, was found guilty of hitting one of the officers while he was still in the car and breaking its rear window.

He was given a three years in jail and two suspended, while his younger brother, Antonin, was found not guilty, along with another young man.

Arson in Lyon

Having spent 10 months in detention awaiting trial, Georges Bernanos and Nicolas Fensch may not return to prison and could serve their rest of their sentences under police surveillance, electronically tagged.

About 40 of their supporters erupted in angry chants when they heard the sentences and were cleared from the court by police.

Last month a group of anarchists set fire to a gendarmerie building in Lyon, claiming that their action was in solidarity with the Paris defendants.

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