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Violence erupts at protests against ‘racist’ attack on Kurds

Protesters stand behind flames during clashes following a demonstration of members of the Kurdish community, a day after a gunman opened fire at a Kurdish cultural centre killing three people, at Place de la République in Paris on December 24, 2022. © Julien De Rosa, AFP

Clashes broke out for a second day in Paris on Saturday between police and Kurdish protestors angry at the killing of three members of their community.

Cars were overturned, at least one vehicle was burned, shop windows were damaged and small fires set alight near Place de la République, a traditional venue for demonstrations where Kurds earlier held a peaceful protest.

Paris Protest

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said there had been a sudden violent turn in the protest but it was not yet clear why.

Speaking on news channel BFM TV, Nunez said a few dozen protestors were responsible for the violence, adding there had been 11 arrests and around 30 minor injuries.

As some demonstrators left the square they threw projectiles at police who responded with tear gas. Skirmishes continued for around two hours before the protestors dispersed.

A gunman carried out the killings at a Kurdish cultural centre and nearby cafe on Friday in a busy part of Paris’ 10th district, stunning a community preparing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the unresolved murder of three activists.

Police arrested a 69-year-old man who the authorities said had recently been freed from detention while awaiting trial for a sabre attack on a migrant camp in Paris a year ago.

Following questioning of the suspect, investigators had added a suspected racist motive to initial accusations of murder and violence with weapons, the prosecutor’s office said on Saturday.

The suspect’s custody was subsequently lifted for health reasons and he was taken to a police psychiatric unit, according to the prosecutor.

“The doctor who examined the suspect today in the late afternoon said that the state of health of the person concerned was not compatible with the measure of custody,” the Paris prosecutor said.

“The custody measure has therefore been lifted pending his presentation before an investigating judge when his state of health allows,” it said, adding that investigations were continuing.

‘Not being protected’

After a gathering on Friday afternoon that had also led to clashes with police, the Kurdish democratic council in France (CDK-F) organised the demonstration at Place de la République on Saturday.

Hundreds of Kurdish protestors, joined by politicians including the mayor of Paris’ 10th district, waved flags and listened to tributes to the victims.

“We are not being protected at all. In 10 years, six Kurdish activists have been killed in the heart of Paris in broad daylight,” Berivan Firat, a spokesperson for the CDK-F, told BFM TV at the demonstration.

She said the event had soured after some protestors were provoked by people making pro-Turkish gestures in a passing vehicle.

Friday’s murders came ahead of the anniversary of the killings of three Kurdish women in Paris in January 2013.

An investigation was dropped after the main suspect died shortly before coming to trial, before being re-opened in 2019.

Kurdish representatives, who met on Saturday with Nunez as well as French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, reiterated their call for Friday’s shooting to be considered a terror attack.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters and AFP)

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