COMPIEGNE, France (AP) — Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon wants to prosecute 16 and 17-year-olds as adults, arguing it would prevent the kind of unrest that has rocked the low-income suburbs of Paris following an alleged police rape.
With his campaign struggling under corruption allegations, Fillon sought to burnish his tough-on-security image Wednesday with proposals likely to please far-right voters. He complained that many minors were involved in the recent unrest, but said they are “virtually untouchable because the law protects them more than their victims.”
He made the comments during a meeting with police and security officials in the town of Compiegne in northern France.
Fillon did not mention the incident that prompted the disturbances: an alleged rape of a young black man by police in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
Protests against police violence erupted in other towns, and crowds gathered in Paris on Wednesday to call for justice for the man.
A few dozen protesters were shouting “Fillon in prison!” near the entrance of the conference hall near Compiegne, where thousands gathered to listen to the conservative candidate’s speech.
Prosecutors opened a probe last month following revelations by the Le Canard Enchaine newspaper that Fillon’s wife and children were paid for allegedly fake jobs as his parliamentary aides. The preliminary probe involves suspicions of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.
Fillon denies any wrongdoing.