Human(!) Rights and Justice in Western Countries: Two French police acquitted over teen deaths
A French court has acquitted two police officers accused of failing to help a couple of teenagers whose deaths sparked weeks of rioting across the country.
The verdict, announced in the western city of Rennes on Monday, cleared officers Sebastien Gaillemin, 41, and Stephanie Klein, 38, of the charges.
The two were accused of failing to assist three teenagers by not informing an electricity company of the youths’ presence at a substation after they had pursued them in the eastern Paris suburb of Clishy-sous-Bois.
Two of the teens, Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, were electrocuted to death while hiding at the substation, while a third suffered severe burns.
Judge Nicolas Leger said in his reading of the verdict that the officers were not aware of the danger the teenagers faced.
Jean-Pierre Mignard (pictured below), representing the boys’ families, described the acquittals as “shocking,” while Zyed’s brother Adel said, “Police officers are untouchable. It’s not just in this case, they are never convicted.”
The case was brought to court by the victims’ families after it was rejected by the appeals court in 2011 when the prosecution said no crime had been committed by the police.
The October 2005 incident sparked the worst unrest in France in decades. Protesters in Paris suburbs and other French cities voiced their anger over police harassment and youth unemployment. The riots lasted for three weeks.
The unrest led to then prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to declare a state of emergency and he admitted at the time that the nation faced a “moment of truth” over the government’s failure to fully integrate the French-born descendants of African and Arab immigrants.