French police attackers get jail over burning squad car

Paris (AFP) –


A Paris judge on Wednesday handed down jail terms of up to seven years to protesters who attacked and torched a police car with two officers inside in what he described as an "urban guerrilla scene".

Swiss national Joachim Landwehr, who is on the run and was tried in absentia, was sentenced to seven years for throwing a smoke bomb into the car during the attack in May 2016.

Six others were also convicted for their part in the attack, which took place after a police demonstration against the violence directed at officers during anti-government protests.

Videos viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube showed black-clad youths, most with their faces covered, surrounding the squad car in traffic in central Paris.

One kicked in the window on the driver's side, and another hurled a smoke bomb into the vehicle, eventually causing it to burst into flames.

When driver Kevin Philippy emerged from the car, French protester Nicolas Fensch lunged at him and assaulted him with an iron bar.

Among those convicted was far-left activist Antonin Bernanos, 23, who was handed five years, which includes a two-year suspended sentence, for pummelling Philippy while he was still in the car.

"You attacked a policeman because he was a policeman," judge Alain Alcufrom told Bernanos.

One other foreigner in the trial besides Landwehr was US national Kara Brault, sentenced to four years with two suspended for taking an iron bar to the car.

Two defendants including Bernanos' younger brother were acquitted following the five-day trial in September.

The attack took place after the perpetrators broke away from a counter-demonstration against alleged police brutality, held metres from where officers were holding a rally against anti-police violence.

On Wednesday, dozens of police were on hand as around 40 protesters gathered outside the courthouse to learn the verdicts.

During the trial, Fensch -- a self-taught computer programmer -- apologised to Philippy.

Fensch's lawyer Antoine Vey described the verdict as "severe" but said his client -- who has already spent several months in detention and will not have to serve further time behind bars -- was glad to be free.