FRANCE: McDonald's Foe Jose Bové Back in Court

Jose Bové, French peasants' champion and hero of the international anti-globalism movement, was due back in court Thursday on trial for his part in the dismantling of a McDonald's restaurant.

The two-day appeal court hearing will decide whether to uphold a previous judgement sentencing him to three years in jail as the ringleader of a 1999 protest in which the fast food chain's branch in Millau, southern France, was partially demolished.

Nine members of Bové's Peasants' Confederation have also appealed, despite receiving much lighter sentences from a regional court that ruled they were simple "agents of execution" of Bové's will.

At each of his many trials Bové has insisted he awaits judgement with "serenity".

"It makes no difference to our struggle. Prison doesn't worry me, I've been there before and I'm ready to go back if need be," he insists.

The confederation has organised an "anti-globalism" carnival and hopes to bring 20,000 supporters into Montpellier for the trial.

In August 1999, 300 of Bové's supporters descended on Millau to protest against US trade sanctions levied on French ewes' milk cheese in reponse to a French ban on American hormone-treated beef.

Since his attack on the symbol of US economic imperialism, the moustachioed farmer, who appears to have sprung from the pages of an Asterix comic book, has become a leading member of the rising anti-globalism movement.

He found an audience in the US at the demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation's Conference in Seattle in December 1999 amd was recently expelled from Brazil after taking part in a raid on an agricultural research centre.

The author of "The World is not for sale" has become a hero with environmentalists and many consumers in France, where concern over the possible health risks of intensive farming runs high.

He has also demonstrated against nuclear testing on the French Pacific atoll of Muroroa.

Last week prosecutors asked a court in Montpellier to sentence Bové and two supporters to three years in jail for the destruction of 3,000 genetically-modified (GM) rice plants at a research station in June 1999.

He and his co-accused all admitted destroying the crops in what Bové described as "a battle for the future".

"The question is: are genetically modified crops the fruits of science or the work of sorcerers' apprentices?" he said, vowing to pursue his aims with similar acts in the future.

The court is expected to hand down its verdict on March 15.

If Bové is jailed he would also have to serve an eight-month suspended sentence imposed in 1998 for a previous attack on GM crops.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
  • 110 Trade Justice
  • 181 Food and Agriculture

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