Europe

French anger as jeweller charged with murder of thief

"Support to the jeweller" is written on the T-shirt of a man who demonstrates in the centre of Nice to support jeweller Stephan Turk
Image caption Hundreds gathered on Monday in one of the Nice's main square to show their support for Mr Turk

Anger is growing in France after a jeweller who shot and killed a teenage robber in the southern city of Nice was charged with voluntary homicide.

Stephan Turk, 67, shot Anthony Asli in the back on Wednesday as he and another robber were fleeing on a scooter with gems stolen from the jeweller's shop.

A Facebook page supporting Mr Turk has garnered more than 1.6 million "likes".

There has been a spate of high-profile jewellery thefts on the French Riviera in recent months.

Mr Turk's supporters are defending his actions, arguing for the right to self-defence amid a general climate of insecurity.

As well as the Facebook page, there have been hundreds of messages posted on Twitter in support of the jeweller and an online petition has also been launched, local media report.

Mr Turk said he was punched and kicked before being forced to open his safe at gunpoint.

"Armed, aggressive thugs attacked me," he said in a brief statement to French television.

"I regret what happened, I regret that he is dead. But it is him who decided to do what he did. It is normal that I would defend myself."

His critics have condemned the use of violence and accuse Mr Turk of vigilantism. Mr Asli's sister says Mr Turk deserves prison for shooting the teenager in the back.

The dead teenager had a string of previous convictions for assault, theft and driving offences, reports say.

French law allows for killers to escape conviction for murder if they can show they acted in "legitimate defence" - but the prosecutor in the case does not believe this applies as the jeweller's life did not appear to be in immediate danger, the AFP news agency reports.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls visited Nice on Tuesday to reassure jewellers that the government still supported them.

His visit comes a day after hundreds of people gathered in one of the city's main squares to support Mr Turk, who is under house arrest in an unknown location, having been charged on Friday.

Two months ago, a single gunman in the Riviera resort of Cannes stole jewels worth 100m euros (£84m; $136m).

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