French far-left leader Mélenchon sentenced for intimidation

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 9 Dec 19 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jean-Luc Mélenchon campaigned against the spending limits imposed under austerity

A French court has given far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon a three-month suspended prison term and an €8,000 (£6,700) fine for intimidating officials investigating his funding.

In October 2018 prosecutors launched searches of his party offices and home.

Mr Mélenchon was filmed shouting "I am the Republic!" at a police officer and shoving him. With colleagues he then tried to break into the party HQ.

He heads the France Unbowed party and supports the yellow vest protests.

He ran against Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential election and won 19.5% of the vote in the first round.

The verdict against him came on the fifth day of a nationwide strike over pension reforms.

'Politically motivated'

Paris prosecutors had been investigating alleged irregularities in Mr Mélenchon's election funding and suspicions that his party had misused EU funds in the hiring of parliamentary assistants. The case was then passed to investigating magistrates.

Mr Mélenchon called the prosecution "politically motivated". He accuses President Macron of defending the interests of a powerful business elite instead of tackling widespread poverty, and he campaigns against globalisation.

The case over the October 2018 searches accused him of "violent resistance" and "intimidation" towards officials.

He argued that he simply wanted to witness the search of his offices, to ensure that party membership files were not taken away.

Continuing strike chaos

There was further transport disruption in Paris on Monday, as only two of the metro's 16 lines were running as normal and suburban trains were also severely disrupted, AFP news agency reported.

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Media captionOn the first strike day Paris saw a large march and clashes with police

Traffic jams in the Paris area extended for 600km (370 miles) by 09:00 (08:00 GMT), a monitoring network called Sytadin reported.

A poll in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday suggested 53% support for the strike.

The yellow vest ("gilets jaunes") movement - originally sparked by a hike in fuel taxes - has escalated into the biggest challenge of Mr Macron's presidency.