A French prosecutor has decried police brutality as a protester suffering severe head trauma during clashes with the law enforcement in a southwestern village is left fighting for his life.
The 30-year-old man sustained life-threatening trauma to the head on Saturday after the police attacked the protesters in the southwestern village of Sainte-Soline with tear gas canisters, water cannon, and rubber bullets, prosecutor Julien Wattebled said on Sunday.
Two other protesters were also hospitalized as a result of injuries caused by excessive use of force by police against the protesters, who were trying to stop construction of giant water basins to irrigate crops. They included a 19-year-old woman with a facial injury and a 27-year-old man with a broken foot.
Opponents of the project say the "megabasisn" will distort access to water amid drought conditions. They believe that such basins are wrongly reserved for large export-oriented grain farms and deprive the community of access to this essential resource.
A special inquiry has been opened to determine the exact nature of the protesters' injuries and the circumstances leading to them, Wattebled said.
Twenty-nine policemen also sustained injuries, two of whom were hospitalized, the prosecutor's office said.
French authorities had deployed around 3,000 police officers to protect the construction site. They said 6,000 protesters took part in the Saturday demonstration, while organizers said there were up to 30,000 people.
Paris blames protesters for the upsurge in violence, with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne alleging she has seen "images of individuals who have no other objective than to injure the police."
The protest in the French village followed days of countrywide unrest over the government of French President Emmanuel Macron's highly controversial plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Popular outrage over Macron imposing the bill without a parliamentary vote has sparked daily clashes between protesters and police in French cities over the past week.
Apart from recent protests, hundreds of thousands of French people have been peacefully marching against the pension reform legislation since January.
France's security forces came under fire this week for their heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the protests.
On Friday, the Council of Europe warned that sporadic violence in protests "cannot justify excessive use of force."
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