Sarkozy signals doubt on police torture claims

13th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 13, 2006 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that he was "stunned" by claims, now being investigated, that police in the country tortured terror suspects in custody in 1995.

PARIS, Feb 13, 2006 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that he was "stunned" by claims, now being investigated, that police in the country tortured terror suspects in custody in 1995.

"I am stunned. I am astonished that incidents this serious were never denounced, considering the number of people who were present at the interrogations. Eleven years later, no one has ever heard about this," Sarkozy told French radio RMC.

Eighteen French police officers have been questioned as part of an internal police probe, launched after a book published last week claimed that suspects were tortured during a probe into a wave of bomb attacks in France in 1995.

Written by three journalists from the news magazine Le Point, the book bases its claims on anonymous interviews with five police officers.

"Either the claims are confirmed, in which case there will be sanctions, or they are slander, in which case I reserve the right to take legal action to protect the honour of people who did their job, who helped to save lives," Sarkozy warned.

Paris and other French cities were hit by a string of bombings in 1995, including a deadly attack on the capital's Saint-Michel metro station in which eight people were killed and 150 injured.

According to the book's sources, several suspects in the attacks were tortured during questioning, including with electric shocks delivered from stun-guns.

The alleged torture took place in the central-eastern city of Lyon and in Paris — where a suspect is said to have been dangled out of a sixth-floor window, according to the book whose title, 'Place Beauvau', is taken after the name of the interior ministry's headquarters.

Sarkozy told reporters it was his duty to "defend" the police force "as we engage in a very difficult struggle against terrorists," and he called on the authorities in place at the time to speak out about the claims.

The interior minister then — Jean-Louis Debré, now speaker of the National Assembly and a member of the ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement — had yet to comment on the torture allegations.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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