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Rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday accused French authorities of using "vague laws" to crack down on anti-government protesters and deter others from exercising their right to demonstrate.
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French authorities have resorted to "overly broad laws to arrest and prosecute thousands of protesters who did not commit violent acts", the group said in a report.
While it did not defend the actions of protesters who commit violence or arson, the rights group said many who were peaceful have been fined, arrested and prosecuted – some for merely bringing goggles to a protest.
En France, des milliers de manifestants, notamment des Gilets Jaunes, ont été arrêtés, placés en garde à vue, poursuivis, voire condamnés alors quils navaient pas commis de violences.
Découvrez notre enquête.https://t.co/lIWURv5XZA
— Amnesty France (@amnestyfrance) September 29, 2020
The justice ministry told AFP it would comment only after reading the full 63-page report.
According to Amnesty, more than 40,000 people were convicted in France in 2018 and 2019 "on the basis of vague laws" for crimes including "contempt of public officials", "participation in a group with a view to committing violent acts" and "organising a protest without complying with notification requirements".
Between April and October 2019, 210 people were detained under a new ban on wearing face coverings to protests – which many do to protect themselves against police teargas.
The offence comes with a fine of up to 15,000 euros ($17,400) and a jail term of up to a year, and led to 41 convictions last year.
"Participation in protest in France today carries the risk of exposure to tear gas, rubber bullets and other dangerous weapons; receiving a fine; spending a day or two in pre-charge detention; and facing criminal charges without having committed violent acts," according to the report.
"Thousands of peaceful protesters have been swept up in France's draconian crackdown on demonstrations," it added.
Since November 2018, France has been the scene of near-weekly anti-government demonstrations by so-called "Yellow Vest" protesters angry about perceived social inequality and a loss of spending power.
The protests have recently resumed, though on a smaller scale, after a hiatus during France's coronavirus lockdown.
France was also rocked by regular demonstrations in late 2019 and early 2020 during the country's longest consecutive public transport strike oRead More – Source