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French police detain suspect in viral video attack of woman

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PARIS (Reuters) – French police have arrested a man suspected of having punched a young woman in front of a Paris terrace in an attack which prompted widespread outrage after CCTV footage of the assault went viral.

The video of the attack on student Marie Laguerre, which she published on Facebook on July 25, boosted support for plans to punish sexual harassment on France’s streets with fines.

The footage showed a passerby throw an ashtray at a woman he had yelled at, then walk back towards her and punch her in the face before calmly walking away. Three men and a woman from the terrace challenged the aggressor but eventually let him go.

Police arrested the suspect on Monday and kept him in custody for a second day on Tuesday, a judicial source said.

Magistrates will now decide whether to put him under formal investigation for sexual harassment and violence. The formal investigation is a first step towards an indictment.

Laguerre said the man had hit her because she told him to shut up after he wolf-whistled at her.

“Because I responded to his harassment, a man hit me in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses,” she said.

Laguerre created a website to gather women testimonies under the hashtag #NousToutesHarcelement (We are all harassed). This echoed dozens of other such initiatives around the world that followed the #MeToo campaign launched in reaction to the allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Days after the video became viral, lawmakers adopted a law imposing on-the-spot fines of up to 750 euros ($857.78) to cat-callers and aggressively lecherous individuals.

($1 = 0.8744 euros)

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Simon Carraud; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Gareth Jones)

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