The first of dozens of people charged over rioting at the weekend in Paris appeared in court on Monday in fast-tracked proceedings.
Fifty-seven suspects face a range of public order charges over the violence.
They include people from diverse backgrounds who joined the third round of “yellow vest” anti-government protests on Saturday which degenerated into some of the worst such violence in central Paris for decades.
Some of the men had long criminal records for violent crime and clashing with police, but others included a 21-year-old with a masters in finance.
The strain on police and the justice system caused by so many cases was also evident as proceedings began in five separate court rooms at a new complex in the northwest of Paris.
“The conditions for the defence are completely unacceptable,” one lawyer complained, adding that she had six clients and had spent only a few minutes with each of them.
Many suspects opted to have their trials deferred to prepare their defence, with hearings set to resume next year.
In one case, a 50-year-old nurse from Nice was acquitted immediately after the prosecution failed to provide any evidence that he had joined the rioting.
The man, who said he was anti-violence and a regular practitioner of yoga, claimed he was arrested by riot police randomly while walking in the Bastille area of the city.
At least one individual faced rape charges after being accused of assault duing the demonstrations, a judicial source told AFP.
There were also at least 10 people in custody accused of vandalising the Arc de Triomphe where some of the worst clashes between protesters and police took place, the source said.
Graffiti was daubed on the giant arch at the top of the Champs-Elysees, a monument to France’s war dead, which read: “The yellow vests will win.”
Rioters also broke in and vandalised a museum inside and a sculpture.
Date published: 06/12/2018
Feature image: Dozens of people face a range of public order charges over the rioting in Paris. AFP/File