Four militant winemakers walked free from Montpellier magistrates court yesterday despite being found guilty of traffic violations.
Although nine men were originally charged with non-physical violence to officers of the law and hindrance to traffic only four were charged with the latter. The remaining five were released from police custody without charge.
The charges follow last week’s violent demonstrations in the Hérault and Aude regions of south France. Starting in Sète (Hérault) on Monday, the week saw police vehicules attacked, wine vats and tankers emptied, railway installations set alight, and motorway traffic held up by rolling blockades.
All nine arrests were made in response to the demonstration on Monday 6 March which occurred while a police helicopter looked on.
The deputy public prosecutor had previously asked for suspended sentences of three to six months for all nine men, a €500 fine for two of their number and a four-month driving licence suspension for another four winemakers.
Jean Huillet, head of the winemakers’ union in the Hérault told journalists he was ‘very happy with the decision’.
‘One month’s suspended sentence – it’s symbolic,’ said the winemakers’ lawyer, André Ferrari.
Around 300 of Huillet’s followers had occupied the regional agricultural offices since Wednesday and were present to cheer the release of all nine winemakers.
Written by Oliver Styles