Protesting French prison guards threaten high-profile trial

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2018 1:17 PM
Protesting French prison guards threaten high-profile trial

PARIS (AP) — Protesting French prison guards are threatening to disrupt a high-profile trial linked to the deadly 2015 Paris attacks, as tensions mount in a nationwide conflict prompted by inmate attacks.

Talks between Justice Ministry officials and prison guard unions on Tuesday failed to find a solution to the standoff, now in its second week. It's shaping up as one of the biggest challenges so far to President Emmanuel Macron's government since his election last year.

The leading unions, UFAP-UNSA and Force Ouvriere, urged their members to keep up their protests Wednesday — and to refuse to allow inmates to leave prisons to attend trials or other hearings.

That will include the trial for Jawad Bendaoud, scheduled to appear in a Paris court Wednesday accused of helping and lodging Islamic State-linked extremists hiding from police after attacks in Paris. It's the first trial linked to the attacks on Paris cafes, the national stadium and Bataclan concert hall, which killed 130 people and rocked the country.

Bendaoud's departure "will necessarily be disrupted," Jean-Francois Forget of UFAP-UNSA said on BFM television.

Yoan Karar, deputy head of the FO prison guards union, said the call to block inmate departures doesn't just concern Bendaoud, held in the Fresnes prison south of Paris, but "all inmates."

"We want to amplify the movement," he told The Associated Press.

He said unions want to talk directly with the prime minister, and that Tuesday's talks focused on small technical solutions and not the bigger problems of staff shortages in overcrowded prisons.

The Justice Ministry said Tuesday that protests were organized in at least 98 prisons across the country, with guards starting their working day late or blocking entrances.

Guards want better wages and enhanced security measures, notably for radicalized prisoners, in addition to the creation of jobs the government has already proposed.

Attacks in about a half-dozen prisons — including by Muslim inmates suspected of being radicalized — have fueled guards' demands for improved working conditions.