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French Anti-Globalization Activist Jose Bove Released From Prison

French farmer and anti-globalization activist Jose Bove is surrounded by supporters after his release from prison in Villeneuve-les-Maguelone, southern France, on August 1, 2002. 1,000 people turned up to greet Bove, who entered jail six weeks ago after receiving a three month sentence for the 1999 anti-U.S protest in which he trashed a McDonalds restaurant. Photo: REUTERS/Georges Bartoli
France's most prominent anti-globalization activist Jose Bove, jailed for tearing down a half-built McDonald's franchise in 1999, was released from prison.A smiling but visibly thinner Bove -- who observed a hunger strike for nearly a month, until July 14 -- was surrounded Thursday by his attorneys, his partner Ghislaine and officials from his Confederation Paysanne farmers' union.

The activist sharply criticized prison conditions in France, telling some 1,000 supporters: "A country that allows this is not worthy of being the nation of human rights."

He described the situation for detainees as "not only a loss of liberty, but also the actual denial of a person's existence as a human being."

Bove -- known for his opposition to multinational companies and US trade policies -- went to jail on June 19 to serve a three-month sentence in Villeneuve-les-Maguelone, a suburb outside the southern city of Montpellier.

But on Wednesday, he signed papers cutting four weeks off his jail term -- two for good behavior and two linked to a national post-election pardon granted by President Jacques Chirac.

Members of Confederation Paysanne, the Greens party and anti-globalization groups welcomed Bove, and planned to stage a celebratory picnic and protest against genetically modified foods some 600 meters (yards) from the prison.

Bove's rise to fame at home and abroad began when he and a group of other farmers used tractors to tear apart a McDonald's outlet under construction in the southern town of Millau in 1999.

Successive courts rejected his argument that he was making a legitimate protest against junk food and punitive US tariffs on French cheeses.

His incarceration was put off until the end of presidential and parliamentary elections between April and June, which saw Chirac re-elected and his center-right supporters winning a wide parliamentary majority.

Bove arrived to serve his sentence here on his tractor -- a seven-hour journey made at a snail's pace that swelled into a parade of around 1,000 supporters, journalists and cameramen.

The activist still faces another 14 months behind bars for a separate incident in which he and other campaigners destroyed a field of genetically modified crops.



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