French farmers march to free man who shot teenager

Two men hold a banner that reads, "free Jean Louis" as they rally in support of a farmer being prosecuted for the attempted murder of an alleged fuel thief, during a demonstration outside the court of appeal in Reims, northeastern France, on 13 February, 2020. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Farmers carried signs saying "Free Jean Louis" as they marched outside the Court of Appeal in Reims

Hundreds of farmers have marched in the north-eastern city of Reims, calling for the release of a fellow farmer, who shot and seriously wounded a teenager.

The 19-year-old is in a coma in hospital but is now out of danger.

Jean-Louis Leroux, who is being investigated for attempted murder, admits firing a shotgun at people he believed were trying to steal fuel from his farm.

He was later released on bail from pre-trial detention.

Mr Leroux, 46, says he has been the victim of dozens of robberies, and felt forced to act after repeated calls to the police failed to stop the issue.

His lawyer said the farmer was not intending to harm anyone.

Farmers protesting outside the Court of Appeal on Thursday carried signs calling for the farmer to be freed.

Many of them described being victims of robberies and complained that they were not being protected.

"We know that the use of weapons is not a solution, we are not asking to protect ourselves in this way, but sometimes dramatic things happen," Hervé Lapie, president of the local chapter of French farmers' union FDSEA, told the France 3 TV network.

"We will continue our work with the authorities... so that things like this don't happen again and farmers don't have to take justice into their own hands."

The court on Thursday released Mr Leroux under judicial supervision ahead of his trial.

The 19-year-old victim is still in a coma, according to his lawyers. They have described the shooting as an "ambush" and argued that "private justice" is never acceptable.

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