Protests at French prisons as search continues for gunmen who killed officers

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www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/may/15/f…

Prison officers complain of overcrowding and violence after two guards killed and inmate freed from van

Hundreds of prison officers across France have held protests after gunmen shot dead two prison officers in an ambush at a Normandy motorway toll and freed a convict linked to gangland drug killings.

On Wednesday morning, groups of prison officers blocked prison entrances across France, while some burned pallets and tyres.

Prison officers will hold a minute’s silence at 11am in memory of the killed officers, and in support of the three others who were seriously injured in the raid on a prison convoy transporting an inmate between a courthouse in Rouen and a prison at Evreux on Tuesday.

At one prison near Marseille, more than 100 prison officers had gathered beneath a banner saying: “We’re not paid to die.”

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Erwan Saoudi, of the FO Justice union, said: “When you put three people in a cell that is 9 metres squared and should only hold one person, of course that creates tension and incidents.”

The Paris prosecutor named the escaped inmate as Mohamed Amra, who was born in 1994, saying that last week he had been convicted of aggravated robbery and charged in a case of abduction leading to death.

The case to find the fugitive and his accomplice and investigate what appears to have been a well-organised plot has been handed to prosecutors from France’s office for the fight against organised crime.

Amra’s lawyer, Hugues Vigier, said the inmate had already made an escape attempt at the weekend by sawing the bars of his cell and said he was shocked by the “inexcusable” and “insane” violence.

The committee chair, Jérôme Durain, said France was “not yet a narco-state” but drug trafficking nonetheless constituted “a direct threat to the national interest” and the government’s anti-drugs measures were “not up to the challenge”.

Law and order is a big issue in French politics in the run-up to next month’s European elections and the prison van ambush sparked fierce reactions from politicians, especially the far right.


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