More than 700 People Prisoned Over France Riots

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 More than 700 people have been sentenced to prison over riots in France late last month, the country’s justice minister said Wednesday, lauding the “firm” response of magistrates.

In total, 1,278 verdicts have been handed down, with over 95 percent of defendants convicted on a range of charges from vandalism to attacking police officers.

Six hundred people have already been jailed.

“It was extremely important to have a response that was firm and systematic,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told RTL radio. “It was essential that we reestablish national order.”

The most intense urban violence in France since 2005 began on June 27 after a police officer shot dead a 17-year-old boy with North African roots during a traffic stop west of Paris, in an incident recorded by a passerby.

The riots were contained after four nights of serious clashes thanks to the deployment of around 45,000 security forces, including elite police special forces and armoured vehicles.

Dupond-Moretti had led calls for courts to hand down harsh sentences as a deterrent, with some staying open over the weekend of the clashes to handle a backlog of cases.

Many suspects faced immediate appearances and some defence lawyers have raised concerns about the fairness of the judicial process and the heavy use of custodial sentences.

The average age of the over 3,700 people arrested was just 17, with the minors appearing in separate children’s courts.

The number of people sentenced to prison exceeds the number in 2005 at the time of the last major riots when around 400 people were sent to jail.

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