Bitter background to tragic death of young French eco-protester

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The death of 21-year-old botany student Rémi Fraisse following clashes between gendarmes and opponents of a dam project in south-west France has led to major political fallout, as well as being a personal tragedy. President François Hollande's government has been accused of being too slow to react to the tragic events, and then of siding too much and too quickly with the security forces and of having ignored warnings about “violent” policing at the protest site. Ministers have meanwhile accused green politicians of seeking to make political capital out of the death and of prejudging the outcome of judicial investigations. The under-pressure interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has now stopped the use of so-called 'offensive' grenades of the type believed to have caused the death of Rémi Fraisse, while the building of the dam itself has been suspended. Louise Fessard, Jade Lindgaard, Nicolas Bérard and Mathieu Magnaudeix examine the repercussions of the tragedy and look at the background to what the lawyer for the victim's family has described as an “unprecedented state scandal”.

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The death of protester Rémi Fraisse last weekend during demonstrations against a controversial dam project in south-west France caught the French government off guard and sent shock waves through the political establishment. Botany student Fraisse, aged 21, described by friends as a “gentle” and non-violent person, was found dead in the early hours of Sunday October 26th, after clashes between demonstrators and gendarmes over the building of the Sivens dam at Testet in the Tarn département or county in south-west France. A formal investigation by independent examining magistrates is now under way but the evidence so far points to him being killed by a so-called 'offensive' grenade thrown by one of the gendarmes policing the site. Protesters have been occupying the area to prevent the building of a 304-metre dam across the valley that will create a 2 kilometre long reservoir to be used by farmers to irrigate their crops. Opponents say the project, overseen by the Tarn council, is unnecessary and will destroy an important area of wetland.