A number of French police officers will face criminal charges for injuring yellow vest protesters following investigations into 174 incidents, Rémy Heitz, the public prosecutor, said on Thursday.
“Police officers will be sent before the criminal court between now and the end of the year,” Mr Heitz told Le Parisien newspaper. He did not specify how many, but added: “The cases are mainly those in which the injuries were most serious, with permanent disabilities, for example, most of which date from the first demonstrations in November and December. Several cases involve the use of rubber bullets.”
France is one of the few European countries that allows police to use the LBD-40, a controversial weapon that fires rubber bullets, also known as ‘flash-balls’, which are banned in the UK.
Many of the 24 yellow vests who say they have lost eyes in clashes with police blamed the weapon for their injuries. The interior ministry puts the number at 10, but acknowledges that 2,200 protesters have been injured. The ministry says more than 1,600 police officers have also been injured.
No police officers have so far been charged over clashes with yellow vests.
Mr Heitz said police officers were likely to be charged over a January 26 incident in which Jérôme Rodrigues, a high-profile yellow vest, was blinded in one eye, allegedly by a rubber bullet. It is illegal for police to fire rubber bullets at someone’s head or genitals.
Despite criticism of the weapon by human rights campaigners, France’s highest court, the Council of State, has ruled that it can continue to be used.
The yellow vest protests broke out in November over planned increases in fuel duty but subsequently broadened into a revolt over high taxes and the cost of living, and a political class seen as privileged and remote from ordinary French people.
Julette Binoche and Emmanuelle Béart are among film stars and showbiz personalities who have condemned what they called excessively tough policing of the protests. The United Nations and the European Union have also expressed concern.
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