Activist French Farmer Gets Prison Time

Wednesday February 26, 2003 6:50 PM

MONTPELLIER, France (AP) - Militant French farmer Jose Bove faces a 10-month prison term after an appeals court decided Wednesday to revoke part of a suspended sentence handed down for destroying genetically modified crops.

Bove quickly put the matter in the hands of President Jacques Chirac, who has the power to issue pardons.

The appeals court in this southern city ruled Bove must serve four months in prison for destroying maize crops. That sentence will be added to a six-month sentence handed down for ripping up genetically modified rice.

It was not immediately clear when Bove was to begin serving his time.

Bove's lawyer, Francois Roux, said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. He also suggested that Chirac should pardon Bove.

``The justice system decided that a nonviolent action done in the open was worth 10 months imprisonment. The decision from now on belongs to Jacques Chirac,'' Roux said.

The sheep farmer, visiting the annual Agriculture Salon fair in Paris, said the ruling made the issue political, not judicial.

``By the decision the president takes, he will say very clearly if the place of union leaders is in prison ... or if, today, the combat against GM crops is a legitimate combat,'' Bove told a crowd of followers.

The presidential Elysee Palace said any decision to pardon Bove would be ``premature,'' noting the Justice Ministry must first examine the case.

Bove is a leading member of the Farmers' Confederation, a militant group that campaigns against globalization and other issues. He shot to fame after leading a group of protesters who dismantled a McDonald's restaurant under construction in Millau, near his sheep farm, in 1999.

Bove went to jail June 19 to complete a 61-day prison term for that act, but benefited from a sweeping presidential pardon - a Bastille Day tradition - and got an early Aug. 1 release.