Monday 26 February 2018

Police sniper accidentally shoots two at Hollande speech

French President Francois Hollande, seen in this still image taken from video, reacts after a shot was fired by a police sharpshooter that accidentally wounded two people while he was giving a speech in Villognon, in the south-west of France
French President Francois Hollande, seen in this still image taken from video, reacts after a shot was fired by a police sharpshooter that accidentally wounded two people while he was giving a speech in Villognon, in the south-west of France

Henry Samuel in Paris

A police sharpshooter accidentally fired his weapon during a speech by President François Hollande of France, injuring two people, according to officials.

France's Socialist leader was in the midst of a speech in a marquee to inaugurate a new fast train line in the western town of Villognon when a shot suddenly rang out, briefly interrupting the speech and causing commotion.

Despite the shot, once his security team concluded he was in no imminent danger, Mr Hollande continued talking, saying at one point: "I hope it's nothing serious."

In fact, a police sniper stationed outside the marquee where the speech was taking place had unintentionally opened fire while changing position.

One local report said the safety catch was unlocked and the gun discharged.

One bullet passed through the thigh of the head waiter of a local hotel and ended up in the calf of an employee of a railway maintenance company, according to Pierre N'Gahane, state prefect of the Charente region.

Unconfirmed local media reports said that the sniper shot himself in the foot and could be seen jumping up and down.

After finishing his speech to inaugurate a new train line linking Paris to Bordeaux in two hours, Mr Hollande went to see the injured parties. They were then taken to the nearby hospital of Girac. Their injuries are not life-threatening.

"The sniper was on high ground when the shot went off accidentally," Mr N'Gahane told reporters. "We heard the noise, the president continued his speech. After, he came back down and entered the next room to talk to the people and to see the injured. He spoke to them for a bit and left as planned."

Meanwhile, a group of MEPs voted "overwhelmingly" yesterday to lift the immunity of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after she tweeted pictures of Isil violence.

Ms Le Pen (48), an MEP, is under investigation in France for posting three graphic images of Isil executions on Twitter in 2015, including the beheading of US journalist James Foley.

Responding to a request from the French judiciary, members of the legal affairs committee "overwhelmingly voted to lift Le Pen's immunity," said Laura Ferrara, of the Eurosceptic 5 Star Movement. An official said 18 MEPs voted in favour of removing Ms Le Pen's immunity while three voted against. Their decision must now be backed by the whole parliament in a second vote, possibly this week.

If her immunity is lifted, Ms Le Pen faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a €75,000 fine for "publishing violent images". She did not immediately react to the vote.

However, Florian Philippot, vice-president of Ms Le Pen's far-right Front National party, defended her, saying: "Showing and naming the horror of Islamism allows us to fight against it."

Ms Le Pen's immunity has been lifted before. She was prosecuted in 2015 over "incitement to discrimination over people's religious beliefs" for comparing Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

Prosecutors eventually recommended the charges be dropped. Last Friday, Ms Le Pen refused a summons to answer questions in a separate investigation into allegations she misused EU funds to pay FN staff, claiming she is the subject of a political smear campaign.

Telegraph.co.uk

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