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PARIS: A French court on Tuesday found France’s national rail operator guilty of negligence after a departing train, apparently deliberately, ran over a cat hiding on its tracks.

The death in January at Paris’s Montparnasse station of Neko - which means “cat” in Japanese - provoked outrage, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin declaring himself to be “particularly shocked”.

Animal rights body the Brigitte Bardot Foundation asked rail operator SNCF: “Are you not ashamed?”

Passengers Georgia and her 15-year-old daughter Melaina said their pet escaped from its travel bag and disappeared under a high-speed train as it prepared to leave Paris for Bordeaux, in southwestern France, with 800 passengers on board.

After 20 minutes of trying to persuade staff to rescue it, the train departed, killing the cat.

“We saw him sliced in half,” Melaina told animal rights association 30 Million Friends at the time. “They told us it wasn’t their problem, that it was just a cat and that we should have had it on a leash.”

SNCF offered the cat’s owners a free ticket to Bordeaux in compensation.

But the association filed a complaint for “serious abuse and cruelty leading to the death of an animal”.

That charge allows for a fine of up to 75,000 euros (more than $80,000) and a five-year jail sentence, but in the event a Paris court fined SNCF 1,000 euros for “negligence”, ruling the pet’s killing had been caused “involuntarily”.

The verdict went against the recommendation of prosecutors who had called for the operator to be cleared of all charges.

SNCF’s travel agency branch was ordered to pay another 1,000 euros in damages to each of the pet’s two owners.

Following Neko’s death, Darmanin announced that police officers in 4,000 stations across the country would be trained to respond to animal trafficking and abuse.