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 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.
French farming activist Jose Bove (L) raises his fist to supporters as he leaves the courthouse with his lawyer Francois Roux (R) in Montpellier, December 20, 2001. Bove received a six-month prison sentence and a 50,000 French franc fine for the destruction of genetically-modified rice plants at a research institute in June 1999. REUTERS/Georges Bartoli
``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
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.
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press