Outrage in France as cash pours in for boxer who bashed police

A video grab made on January 7, 2019 shows former boxer Christophe Dettinger broacasting a message of apology for punching police officers during a "yellow vest" protest in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2019
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Outrage in France as cash pours in for boxer who bashed police

  • Christophe Dettinger, known as “The Gypsy From Massy”, turned himself in to police on Monday after videos emerged of him assaulting officers

PARIS: French officials on Tuesday condemned a fundraising drive that brought in more than 100,000 euros for a former boxer filmed punching police officers during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government protests in Paris over the weekend.
Christophe Dettinger, known as “The Gypsy From Massy” during his days in the ring, turned himself in to police on Monday after videos emerged of him assaulting shield-carrying officers during the demonstrations on Saturday.
As of Tuesday morning, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of 117,000 euros ($134,000) on the Leetchi website to help pay legal costs for Dettinger, who remains in custody.
In a video posted on YouTube on Sunday, he described himself as an “ordinary citizen” acting out of anger with what he called the repressive tactics of the police.
“I was tear-gassed, with my friend and my wife, and at a certain point the anger just rose up inside me,” said the 2007 and 2008 champion of France’s light heavyweight division.
His case garnered many pledges of support on social media, with some calling him a hero for defending a movement that has accused police of using excessive force against demonstrators.
But government officials assailed the fundraising drive, with many calling for it to be shut down or for the pledged funds to be seized.
“To what level of hate have we sunk to in the public sphere that people fund gratuitous violence against someone charged with upholding public order?,” Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa told France Info radio Tuesday.
“It’s outrageous, this kitty is shameful,” she said.
“I can’t understand anyone putting one cent of a euro to defend a man who attacked (police) with such violence and cowardice,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 5 television.
The SCSI-CFDT police union said the funds should be used to compensate the two officers targeted by Dettinger, who were removed from duty while recovering from their injuries.
Leetchi initially defended its hosting of the fundraising, saying it was simply a “neutral” online platform.
But on Tuesday it stopped displaying the amount pledged, before closing the kitty “in light of the amount raised” after more than 8,100 pledges.
Leetchi did not reveal how much was raised in total, but said that it would ensure the funds “will be used only to pay for legal costs” and that any money left over would be returned to donors.
Around 50,000 “yellow vest” protesters took to the streets again on Saturday to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, call for his resignation or demand more of a say in national law-making.
It was the latest of weekly protests since November that have often spilled into running battles with police in Paris and other cities, with dozens of vehicles set ablaze and stores vandalized.
Many protesters claim they are simply responding to police violence, pointing to a video showing a police captain hitting protesters in the southern city of Toulon at the weekend, and their heavy use of teargas and rubber bullets.
Journalists have also become targets for protesters, with many media outlets hiring bodyguards to protect their reporting teams.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in a TV interview late Monday announced plans for legislation banning “troublemakers” from attending demonstrations.
Another major demonstration has been called for Saturday, this time in Bourges, central France, instead of the capital.
The yellow vest movement, originally against fuel tax hikes, has snowballed into a wide protest against the rising cost of living, which prompted Macron’s government to announce a minimum wage hike and other financial relief.
But many of the protesters say the measures are not enough and that rural France is paying the price for Macron’s policies, which they see as mainly profiting a wealthy Parisian elite.
Politician Chantal Jouanno had been due to lead a national debate organized by the government to discuss living standards and government policies.
On Tuesday, under criticism for the 14,666-euro monthly salary she was reportedly receiving, she stepped down from that role — but would stay on to head the national committee overseeing the debate.
The head of France’s employers federation, MEDEF International, warned Tuesday that footage of the protests would scare off foreign tourists.
“When you are in the United States, you have the impression that France is in a civil war,” said Frederic Sanchez.


Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago
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Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

  • Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court
  • The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country

COLOMBO: Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) secretary-general Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was released from prison in Colombo on a presidential pardon on Thursday.

The firebrand monk, notorious for his hardline views, was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court.

The monk, who has been accused of inciting violence against the Muslim community in the country, was also convicted and given a six-month jail term over intimidating Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of missing journalist Pradeep Ekneligoda.

The hardline Buddhist group had called on its supporters to gather outside Welikada Prison, where Gnanasara Thero was serving his jail term.

While a massive crowd was waiting at the prison’s main gate to welcome the monk, the yellow-robed priest was let out of the backdoor for security reasons.

BBS chief executive officer Dilantha Withanage told Arab News that all Sri Lankans are happy that the BBS leader has been released and the society is grateful to President Maithripala Sirisena for granting him a pardon.

“We feel that justice was received even at this juncture,” Withanage said.

The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country, resulting in serious damage to Muslim-owned homes, msoques and commercial establishments. One person was killed during the violence, which lasted two days before it was brought under control.

President Sirisena, who visited the Welikada Prison last week to pardon 762 prisoners on Vesak Day, held discussions with the monk for more than 45 minutes.

Islamic Solidarity Front Chairman Reyaaz Salih told Arab News that forgiveness is an important aspect of Islam.

“He has been pardoned by the president of the country and we all hope that his presence will help the nation to have a peaceful co-existence with all communities,” he said, adding that Thero will be able to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the Sinhalese communities, opened up by the anti-Muslim violence, by virtue of his effective communication skills.

Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, who visited the jail on Wednesday, said that he would continue to work for better communal understanding with the monk.

However, in his twitter account leading constitutional lawyer J. C. Weliamuna said: “Pardoning Ven. Gnanasara is a slap on the independence of judiciary: He was convicted of interfering with court and of contempt of court. No civilized nation will lightly pardon such a convict."

International Crisis Group Sri Lanka Project Director Alan Keenan tweeted saying that that the move will send out the wrong signals following the Easter Sunday attacks.

“A big blow to SriLanka’s already battered rule of law, sending precisely the wrong message after Easter attacks. A peaceful Lanka requires all communities to feel safe and equal.”

A majority of the Muslim community felt Gnanasara Thero responsible for inciting violence against Muslims, linking him to the Aluthgama anti-Muslim violence in 2014.