Future of French dam in balance after eco-protester's death

GMT 15:55 2014 Wednesday ,29 October

Arab Today, arab today Future of French dam in balance after eco-protester's death

Protesters plant trees
Paris - AFP

The future of a controversial French dam project where a young protester was killed by what appears to be a police grenade hung in the balance Wednesday as authorities mulled suspending work on site.
Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed in the early hours of Sunday as people protesting against the project in the southwestern Tarn region clashed violently with security forces. It was the first such death in mainland France in nearly three decades.
The tragedy caused a furore in France after the government was slammed for its slow response and forensic tests on the victim's clothes found traces of TNT, which is in concussion grenades used by riot police.
A concussion grenade relies for its effect on the blast of its detonation rather than the fragmentation of its casing, and is designed to stun rather than kill.
Ecology Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday a meeting would take place next week gathering together all warring parties to discuss the future of the Sivens dam.
Those opposed to the project say the dam will destroy a reservoir of biodiversity and will only benefit a small number of farmers.
Those promoting the project, meanwhile, retort that the dam is in the public interest as it will ensure irrigation and the development of high-value crops.
Thierry Carcenac, head of the Tarn's executive council, told local daily La Depeche du Midi that authorities were considering "suspending work but not indefinitely."
The weekend tragedy was the culmination of weeks of protests by opponents of the project that included litigation, hunger strikes, demonstrations and occupation of the site by activists.
On Wednesday, people opposing the project were still on site in a tense atmosphere.
Fraisse's body was discovered at 2:00am Sunday, when a hardcore group of protesters was still clashing with police after an initial peaceful gathering, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones as security forces responded with tear gas and grenades.
On Wednesday, the national gendarmerie, a security force that comes under the jurisdiction of both the defence and interior ministries, carried out policing duties and was on site at the protest, defended its actions as the probe continues.
"It's two in the morning, it's night-time, it's pitch black, there are clashes, the gendarmes are harassed, attacked by people who are almost armed," Pierre Bouquin, spokesman for the security force, told French radio.
"It's an unfortunate combination of circumstances, an accident."


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