Protesters who torched police car, attacked officers in Paris protests get jail terms of up to 7 years

French gendarmes stand guard as people gather at a demonstration in support of the defendants in the trial over the case of a police car set on fire in May 2016 in Paris, on Oct 11, 2017.
French gendarmes stand guard as people gather at a demonstration in support of the defendants in the trial over the case of a police car set on fire in May 2016 in Paris, on Oct 11, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A Paris court on Wednesday (Oct 11) handed down jail terms of up to seven years to protesters who attacked and torched a police car with two officers inside.

Swiss national Joachim Landwehr, who is on the run and was tried in absentia, was sentenced to seven years for throwing a smoke bomb into the car during the attack in May 2016, footage of which went viral on YouTube.

Six others were also convicted for their part in the incident, which took place after a police demonstration against the violence directed at officers during anti-government protests.

Among them was far-left activist Antonin Bernanos, 23, who was sentenced to five years' jail, which includes a two-year suspended sentence for "aggravated violence against a police officer".

Another was Nicolas Fensch who was caught on camera hitting the driver with an iron bar. He was given five years' jail, with two-and-a-half years suspended.

Another two defendants were acquitted following the five-day trial which took place last month, during which protesters gathered outside the courthouse chanting slogans such as "murderer cops".

On Wednesday, another 40 protesters gathered outside the courthouse as the verdict was read out.

Last year's attack took place after the perpetrators broke away from a counter-demonstration against alleged police brutality.

Video footage shows black-clad youths, most with their faces covered, surrounding the squad car in traffic in central Paris. One can be seen kicking in the window on the driver's side, and another hurling a smoke bomb into the vehicle, eventually causing it to burst into flames.

When driver Kevin Philippy emerges from the car, Fensch can be seen lunging at him with an iron bar.

During the trial, Fensch - a self-taught computer programmer - apologised to officer Philippy.

Fensch's lawyer Antoine Vey described the judgment as "severe" but said his client - who has already spent several months in detention and will not have to serve further time behind bars - was glad to be free.