Two French police to stand trial over 'yellow vest' violence

Paris (AFP) –


Two French police officers will stand trial for alleged violence against "yellow vest" demonstrators taking part in anti-government rallies which erupted a year ago, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.

Participants in the protest movement have long accused authorities of using heavy-handed tactics that have left dozens of people seriously injured.

They denounce in particular the use of large rubber bullets from so-called "defensive ball launchers," as well as sting-ball grenades.

Yellow vest activists say 23 protesters lost the use of an eye, five lost a hand, and one a testicle, while dozens sustained other injuries.

The two officers were charged over incidents at this year's May Day protest in Paris, a traditional day of labour union rallies that was joined by yellow vest activists.

One officer will stand trial for allegedly slapping a protester in the face, while the other is accused of throwing a paving stone at demonstrators in Paris -- both scenes were captured on video.

Eighteen other cases have been handed to an investigating magistrate -- whose task it is to probe the most serious crimes -- to decide whether there was enough evidence to press charges, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement.

In May, as participation in the weekly Saturday protests since November 17 last year was fading, the interior ministry said 2,448 demonstrators had been hurt in the protests, along with 1,797 members of the security forces.

On Thursday, Heitz said 146 yellow vest-related investigations had been finalised by the IGPN police oversight body, out of 212 Paris-based cases signalled by prosecutors.

Fifty-four investigations were closed without charges being pressed, and another 72 are being considered by the prosecution service, Heitz said.