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Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
French anger at Bove 'commando' arrest
Bove's smashed door
Police forced their way into Bove's home
The dramatic helicopter arrest of French militant farmer Jose Bove has sparked angry protests from his supporters and the French Left.

Bove was snatched from his farm in southern France in a dawn commando-style operation that involved scores of police officers.

He was taken away in the helicopter to begin a 10-month jail sentence for destroying genetically modified crops.

The government has chosen confrontation
Julien Dray
Socialist Party spokesman
But amid the outcry over the strong-arm tactics, there were suggestions from a government minister that Mr Bove could receive a presidential pardon as early as 14 July - Bastille Day.

Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande described the arrest strategy as "shocking".

"The government has chosen confrontation," said his spokesman, Julien Dray.

Green and Communist Party officials joined the chorus of protest.

Because it is Bove, who speaks perfect English and whom the media adore, must the government refuse to apply a (judicial) decision? What's the problem? Where's the scandal
Nicolas Sarkozy
French Interior Minister
Trades unions also leapt to Bove's defence.

Marc Blondel of the Force Ouvriere said it was "particularly shocking that a union official should be taken to prison like a dangerous outlaw."

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy defended the police tactics.

"Because it is Bove, who speaks perfect English and whom the media adore, must the government refuse to apply a (judicial) decision?" Mr Sarkozy asked. "What's the problem? Where's the scandal?"

Helicopter used in Bove arrest
Bove was taken by helicopter to begin his sentence
Justice Minister Dominique Perben said Bove had "defied justice".

"Mr Bove categorically refused to collaborate with the justice system. He defied justice," said Mr Perben.

Mr Perben said the farmer had refused to meet officials to discuss converting his prison sentence into community service or electronic tagging.

"There is, of course, no reason that Mr Bove would not be considered" for a pardon, he added.

Last year, a Bastille Day pardon reduced a separate prison sentence for Bove from three months to six weeks.

The Green Party was among those backing a pardon.

Member of parliament Noel Mamere said President Jacques Chirac would have "a lot of difficulty not granting a pardon" to Bove.

"It is up to the president to decide in his heart and soul. Does Jose Bove deserve to be in prison when there are a certain number of major criminals, financial criminals who have committed much more serious criminal acts who are today free?"

Mr Chirac's party, the UMP, hailed the arrest.

Jose Bove
Bove may benefit from
"Jose Bove went into battle and he knew the risks," said spokesman Francois Baroin.

Bove, who leads the radical Confederation Paysanne, has received two sentences for destroying genetically modified crops.

He is also notorious for ransacking a partly-build McDonalds restaurant in Millau, near his farm, for which he also served time in prison.

Protests against Bove's arrest were continuing on Monday. In one incident, four farmers chained themselves to public buildings in the central town of Tulle.

On Sunday evening, around 300 people staged a protest outside the Justice Ministry in Paris, chanting "Chirac to prison, Jose to his home".

Profile: France's farm crusader
30 Jun 00  |  Europe

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