French police brutality in spotlight again after officer charged with rape
One officer charged with the rape of a young man, and three other officers with assault over violent arrest in suburb of Paris
Police in France are again facing allegations of brutality after an officer was charged with the rape of a young man during a violent arrest in a suburb of Paris.
Four officers arrived at a housing estate in Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris, on Thursday evening, where they began stopping youths and asking to see identity papers. During the operation, a 22-year-old man with no criminal record, identified only by his first name, Theo, was allegedly forced to the ground and beaten.
A police officer has now been charged with anally raping the young man with a police baton. Theo suffered such serious injuries to the rectum that he needed major emergency surgery, and remains in hospital.
Three other officers were charged with assault. The four officers, who deny the charges, have been suspended.
The prosecutor’s office said the police stopped a group of about a dozen people “after hearing calls characteristic of lookouts at drug dealing sites”. During the operation they “attempted to arrest a 22-year-old man”. When he resisted, they used teargas, and “one of them used an expandable baton”, the prosecutor’s office said, without giving further details.
The incident sparked fury and disturbances in the sprawling estate of 3,000 people on Saturday evening, where a car was set alight and bus shelters were smashed. On Sunday, riot police were sent into the area.
Éric Dupond-Moretti, the lawyer for Theo’s family, said: “This is an exceptionally serious case.” He told France Inter radio: “There was blood everywhere, on the walls,” He said the family wanted calm and that they demanded justice.
Bruno Beschizza, the rightwing mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, who is a former police officer, said “all light must be shed” on what he called an “unbearable and unacceptable” incident. He said: “The police are there to protect and not to humiliate our fellow citizens.”
Beschizza described Theo as a “respectable” young man who came from a respectable family, which had been “psychologically destroyed” by what had happened.
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate, said there must be a diligent and transparent inquiry. He tweeted that the police “represent the Republic that protects” and “trust must urgently be restored”.
French police are regularly accused of using excessive force in poorer neighbourhoods, and particularly against black and minority ethnic suspects.
The death in police custody last summer of a young black man, Adama Traoré, in Beaumont-sur-Oise outside Paris, and the slow reaction of authorities has sparked accusations of police violence and a state cover-up. An investigation is ongoing.
In 2005, weeks of riots erupted after two teenagers were electrocuted when they hid in an electricity substation while being chased by police.