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Bove Sentencing for GE Crop Sabotage Sparks Riot in France

Bove Sentencing for GE Crop Sabotage Sparks Riot in France

AP. 20 December 2001.

Riot Police Called in as Judge Sentences Militant French Farmer to Six
Months in Jail.

MONTPELLIER, France -- A judge sentenced militant French farmer Jose
Bove to six months in jail Thursday, but not until riot police fired
tear gas to force more than 100 of his supporters from the courthouse.

The appeals court convicted Bove, a leading anti-globalization
activist, for his role in destroying a genetically modified rice field
in southern France in 1999.

After the sentencing, a defiant Bove vowed to continue the fight
against genetically modified crops.

He said he would lodge his second appeal in the case, this time to
France's highest court, the Court of Cassation - a move that could keep
him out of jail for up to a year. Under French law, defendants don't
have to being serving sentences until all appeals are exhausted.

"Today they've tried to weaken our fight," Bove told reporters at the
courthouse, in this southern French town. "For us, this combat will not
stop ... and if they put us in prison ... the battle will continue from
behind bars."

Opposition to genetically modified foods has been very strong in
France. Bove's Farmers Confederation has made the issue one of their
causes, threatening to uproot experimental fields of modified food if
the government doesn't destroy them.

The appeals court verdict followed a trial last month. In that case,
the judge handed down a lighter punishment: a 10-month suspended jail
sentence and a fine.

Judge Patrick Brossier delayed the verdict Thursday for about two hours
after more than 100 farmers from the Farmers' Confederation disrupted
the proceedings and refused to leave the courtroom.

Riot police moved in, pushing the protesters into the courthouse lobby
and finally expelling them from the building with tear gas.

France's Human Rights League denounced the verdict and expressed its
"solidarity" with Bove.

Bove hit the media spotlight two years ago after he led the ransacking
in 1999 of a McDonald's restaurant near his home in Millau, in southern
France.

Later that year, Bove and two others allegedly destroyed more than
1,000 rice plants in a greenhouse operated by Cirad, a research firm
near Montpellier. The three were convicted this past March.

All three appealed. The court handed down a six-month sentence Thursday
to former Farmers' Confederation member Rene Riesel and a six-month
suspended sentence to Dominique Soullier, a regional spokesman for the
group.

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