France: Activist Jose Bove Must Serve 14 Months in Prison

PARIS - France's highest court ruled Tuesday that militant French farmer Jose Bove must serve 14 months in prison for destroying two fields of genetically modified crops.

The Court of Cassation confirmed a decision by a Montpellier appeals court sending Bove to prison for six months for destroying a genetically modified rice field in 1999, and revoking an eight-month suspended sentence in a 1998 case.

Bove, a mustachioed anti-globalization activist, was in his hometown of Millau, in southern France, when the verdict was read out. He will not go to jail until formally notified of the decision, likely by the prosecutor's office in Montpellier.

Bove's attorney, Francois Roux, said he would appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. However, an appeal to that body does not keep Bove out of jail.

Bove supporters urged President Jacques Chirac to intervene to stop him from going to prison.

"A refusal on his part would be equivalent to an attack on public freedoms and a clear show of support for agrochemical multinationals," said the farmers federation that Bove leads.

Bove also appealed to Chirac to make "a clear declaration affirming that the place of union leaders in not in prison."

The court also rejected the appeal of two other militants, Rene Riesel, given the same sentence as Bove, and Dominique Soullie, given a six-month suspended sentence. Soullie was the only one of the three present for the verdict.

Bove, a sheep farmer whose crusades against globalization have taken him around the world, first gained attention for leading a group of protesters who dismantled a McDonald's restaurant under construction in Millau, near his sheep farm, in August 1999.

He went to jail on June 19 to complete a 61-day prison term for that act, but benefitted from a presidential pardon a Bastille Day tradition and got an early Aug. 1 release.

After years of denouncing "foul food" including genetically modified crops and fast food Bove has increasingly taken up other causes.

Last spring, he met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah in defiance of Israeli soldiers who had surrounded Arafat's compound. Israel then ordered Bove deported.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
  • 181 Food and Agriculture

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