Paris court rules in favour of strip-searched journalist

18th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Paris court scrapped charges against a newspaper executive who was taken from his home and strip-searched last year.

Paris – A Paris court scrapped charges Friday against newspaper executive who was arrested last year, taken from his home in handcuffs and strip-searched, sparking a furore over judicial powers.

Vittorio de Filippis, the left-wing Liberation newspaper's director for development, was taken in for questioning by three police officers in November over a libel suit lodged by the head of an Internet service provider.

The Paris appeals court ruled that the conditions of his arrest were not "proportionate to the gravity of the offence".

The judge found that there was no urgent need to take Filippis in for questioning and declared the warrant and the charges null and void.

Police turned up at Filippis' home in the early hours and insisted he accompany them to the police station.

During the five hours that he was held at a police station in the Paris region, he was handcuffed, strip-searched twice and interrogated without a lawyer.

Filippis' lawyer however said that did not mean that the case was closed and that his client could still face charges.

For his part, Filippis said he was "not at all suprised" by the ruling but lamented that his ordeal has been used for political ends.

Shortly after the arrest, President Nicolas Sarkozy said he wanted to scrap the post of investigating judge, who wields strong powers and can order police to execute a summons, as was the case for the Liberation journalist.

France's Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie defended the police officers involved, saying they had "followed procedures" and were acting on the orders of the investigating judge handling the case.

Judge Muriel Josie had justified the order by stating that Filippis had refused to answer a previous subpoena.

But the court ruled there was no evidence to support that claim.

Rights' groups, journalists' unions and many politicians condemned the police's handling of the case, with some alleging it was a case of media intimidation.

AFP / Expatica

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