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article imageParis police car torching trial delayed after chaotic start

By AFP     Sep 19, 2017 in Crime

The trial of nine men over a dramatic attack on Paris police, whose car was torched while they were still inside, was delayed after getting off to a chaotic start Tuesday.

Hearings will resume Wednesday -- in a bigger courtroom -- after defence lawyers twice interrupted with legal complaints and as the defendants' supporters protested outside the packed court.

Dozens of radical leftist protesters gathered outside greeted the trial's postponement with shouts of "everyone hates the legal system".

The slogan recalled chants of "everyone hates the police" during protests against alleged police brutality.

Videos of the May 2016 incident, which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, show black-clad youths, most with their faces covered, surrounding the car in traffic in central Paris.

One can be seen kicking in the window on the driver's side, and another hurling a flare into the vehicle, eventually causing it to burst into flames.

After the driver, Kevin Philippy, got out of the car, assailants struck him with metal bars.

The incident took place on the sidelines of a demonstration by police over violence directed against officers by anti-government protesters.

The attackers struck after they had broken away from a counter-demonstration against police brutality.

Philippy, who was nicknamed "Kung Fu cop" for his technical prowess in defending himself against the blows he received, is a civil plaintiff in the case, along with his female colleague, Allison Barthelemy, and the Alliance police union.

Six of the defendants are charged with "aggravated violence against police officers" and face up to 10 years in prison.

Three have been in custody since the assault, while five are under house arrest. Some have admitted their involvement.

The man accused of throwing the flare into the car, a Swiss resident, is on the run.

- 'Scapegoats' -

The day of the attack saw police rallies across France decrying violence suffered during a wave of protests last year against labour reforms initiated by the deeply unpopular government of then president Francois Hollande.

Officers said their resources were dangerously stretched as they oversaw stepped-up security measures to counter Islamist attacks while also policing increasingly restive protests.

In the two months before the assault, some 350 members of the security forces were injured during protests, including one who lost the use of an eye.

Fuelling anti-police sentiment was a video widely shared on social media in March 2016 showing two officers holding up a 15-year-old boy while another punched him.

Around 30 investigations were opened into alleged police brutality, and left-wing politicians as well as unions strongly criticised the government for its handling of the protests.

But Alexandre Langlois, head of the police section of the CGT union, said the police's reputation had been "smeared" and officers had become "scapegoats for social anger".

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