French authorities charged and jailed a suspected organiser of an illegal New Year rave that saw 2,400 people defy virus rules, in a ruling slammed on Wednesday by his supporters as an injustice.
The wildcat rave party over the New Year in the Brittany region in northwestern France shocked the country as people continue to observe strict bans on gatherings to battle the coronavirus.
The man, 22 and homeless, was arrested on Saturday in the van where he was living west of the city of Rennes and then charged late on Tuesday with organising an illegal event and putting the lives of others in danger, said Rennes prosecutor Philippe Astruc.
He was also remanded in custody, given the risk of communicating with other organisers of the event, he added.
The man’s lawyer Remi Cassette said his client denied being one of the organisers while acknowledging he had taken part in the event and “given a hand” with the organisation.
Prosecutor Astruc said that he was not the only suspected organiser and at least three or four more remained at large.
The images of the rave shocked the country both due to the flagrant violation of rules on gatherings and social distancing but also because of the failure of the local security forces to prevent it from taking place.
The prosecutor said some 800 vehicles had brought participants to the event, with admission charged at 5 euros, and some coming from as far as Italy, Spain or Poland.
“All these elements point to a significant logistical organisation and coordination,” said the prosecutor.
But a statement by a support committee set up to back those who took part, called for the man to be freed immediately and called for a rally in Rennes on Saturday to support him.
“It doesn’t matter if this person is really connected with the organising, what we know is that it is inconceivable for someone to go to prison for letting women and men dance,” it said.
A group of people claiming to be the organisers of the event — who were not named — wrote an op-ed in the Liberation daily Tuesday saying they were “proud” to have allowed people to see in the New Year in happiness.
They had responded “to the call of those who are not satisfied with an existence punctuated only by work, consumption and screens, alone at home in the evening.”
Supporters angry as France jails suspected organiser of New Year rave The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ France 24.