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French court sentences German rioters

A French court has handed down prison terms to demonstrators who took part in violent riots during last week’s NATO summit in Strasbourg. Three Germans were among those given prison sentences of up to six months.

Smoke billows from the disused customs office in Alsace

A German and a Russian national admit setting fire to the customs office

The defendents – all under 25 years of age – were sentenced on Monday at a rowdy hearing in the eastern city of Strasbourg. The French court handed down jail terms of between three and six months to three German and three French nationals. The Germans were convicted of throwing stones at police officers and carrying weapons, including a metal bar and a small axe. Only one of the three denied the charges.

Two of the Germans described the court hearing as a "political trial" and said they would go on hunger strike in protest against their six-month sentences.

"Black Block" gang responsible

Police say about 2,000 masked demonstrators belonging to a hardcore anarchist group called the Black Block were responsible for most of the violence during the 60th anniversary summit of the transatlantic alliance. During the protests, rioters set fire to a hotel, a pharmacy and a disused customs office in the nearby historic eastern city of Alsace near the German border. A German and a Russian national have admitted to setting the fire at the customs office.

Organizers put protester turnout at the Franco-German hosted summit at 30,000. Police estimate that around 10,000 demonstrators took part, most of them peacefully. Despite tight security in Strasbourg, the worst of the violence was centered close to the French side of the Bridge of Europe which links France with Germany.

Around 2,500 protesters had also gathered across the river in the German town of Kehl. Protests there remained peaceful.

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