Three ex-Air France staff found guilty in shirt-ripping trial

Appearing in court in northeast Paris, two others who faced the same charges of “organised violence” were acquitted.

Images of furious activists chasing down the executives at the airline’s headquarters on the edge of Paris made headlines around the world when the confrontation took place.

The protests were led by the hard-left CGT, France’s largest union, over the airline’s plans to cut 2,900 jobs.

Ten other former and current employees from the company were fined €500 ($530) on Wednesday for damaging the company’s property after they broke down a gate at the headquarters during the demonstration.

Pierre Plissonnier, director of long-haul operations at the airline, had told the court of his “humiliation” at seeing pictures of himself scrambling over a fence to escape the mob.

The court also viewed footage of the incident in which a worker can be heard threatening human resources boss Xavier Broseta before he has his shirt ripped off in front of television cameras.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had called for the defendants, whom he branded “rogues”, to be given stiff sentences.

The bigger picture

The defendants’ lawyer, Lilia Mhissen, said during the trial she hoped the her clients would “not be judged on the basis of video clips that last a fraction of a second” but on the bigger picture.

At least two of them “clearly acted to protect Mr Broseta and Mr Plissonnier”, she said.

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“If they had retrieved all of the video images… the story would have been different.”

Air France, which employs around 55,000 people, has scrapped the restructuring plan but still faces tensions with pilots and flight crews that staged strikes in late July.

Air France-KLM returned to profit last year after seven years of losses, but faces stiff competition from Asian and Gulf airlines as well as new low-cost long-haul alternatives.

The airline also faces a downturn in bookings, notably by Japanese, Chinese and American customers, because of the string of jihadist attacks that have hit France over the past 21 months.

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