The presiding judge asked the activists why they thought they had the right to take the law into their own hands. He insisted that the trial should focus on the specific funeral pole incident and that his court wasn’t competent to judge France’s colonial era as a whole.
Quai Branly lawyer Yves Goulard argued that because of the discussions underway between France and African governments, “there is no need for this political act.” The French state “is very committed to this, and serious” about following through, he said. The prosecutor said the activists should have made their point via more peaceful means.
Defense lawyer Hakim Chergui argued that it shouldn’t have taken this many decades after African countries’ independence to settle the issue. He choked up when talking about the skulls of Algerian 19th century resistance fighters long held as trophies in a French museum and returned to his native Algeria this year.
“There is a frustration in the population that is growing, growing, growing,” he said, calling Wednesday’s proceedings “a trial of the colonial continuum.”
Applause and boos periodically interrupted the proceedings. A crowd of supporters shouted in anger at not being able to enter the small, socially distanced courtroom, and judges sent Diyabanza to calm them down.
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