France's star anti-globalization activist Jose Bove was ordered to prison to
serve a three-month jail sentence for his 1999 demolition of a McDonald's outlet.
Bove told AFP that police had handed him a summons to turn up to the Villeneuve
les Maguelonne prison near the southern city of Montpellier early Wednesday.
French farmer Jose Bove marches through Rome's central streets June 8, 2002 during
a demonstration demanding food sovereignty and condemning genetically modified
crops. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
French authorities, fearing his incarceration could have upset presidential
and parliamentary elections held over the past two months, had put off imposing
the sentence handed down by a court in February.
But the last of the polls finished Sunday, ushering in a center-right government
that has pledged to be tough on law-and-order issues and to implement President
Jacques Chirac's "zero impunity" pledge on crime.
Bove, a mustachioed former farmer who has built a worldwide reputation for
his active opposition to multinational companies, US trade policies and globalization's
negative effects on workers and the poor, vowed to make his time behind bars as
politically embarrassing for the new government as possible.
"I won't go alone. We've decided to go in a procession," he said.
"The first political decision of (Prime Minister Jean-Pierre) Raffarin's government
and of the majority coming from Sunday's vote is to repress the labor movement.
"My incarceration is a clear message to the labor movement that challenges
to globalization's will no longer be accepted."
Bove and a group of other farmers angry with punitive US trade tariffs on French
goat cheese exports used tractors to tear apart a McDonald's fast-food restaurant
under construction in the southern town on Millau in 1999.
He tried to have the criminal charges set aside, arguing that the action had
been a political demonstration, but in February a court quashed that appeal and
ruled that he would have to serve three months, minus the 20 days he had already
spent in custody.
With good behavior, the total term could end up being as low as one month.
But authorities dragged their heels, loath to give the militant a stage during
the sensitive election period.
"There is no way that the judicial institution is going to foul the electoral
scene," Montpellier prosecutor Paul-Louis Aumeras said in April, explaining that
Bove would not be jailed until after the final presidential polls on May 5.
Bove capitalized on the surprising decision.
He refused to cut any face-saving deal, telling AFP in April: "There is no
room for negotiation -- either I'm free or I'm in prison."
And in the last few weeks he has been taunting police with regular queries
about when, exactly, he could expect to be put behind bars.
Now he has his answer. And France's new government has its first challenge
to its authority.
Copyright 2002 AFP