Teen contradicts police on riot-sparking 'accident'

16th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France, Dec 15 (AFP) - A teenager who survived an electrocution that killed two friends and set off the three weeks of rioting that shook France recently accused police Thursday of creating the situation.

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France, Dec 15 (AFP) - A teenager who survived an electrocution that killed two friends and set off the three weeks of rioting that shook France recently accused police Thursday of creating the situation.

Muhittin Altun, 17, wearing a T-shirt with the words "Dead for Nothing" on it, arrived in his northwestern Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in the company of his father and a cousin after receiving hospital treatment for burns suffered in the October 27 incident.

In an interview published in the newspaper Le Parisien, Altun contradicted the police version of events surrounding the electrocution in a sub-station in the suburb which killed his friends, Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17.

Youths in the suburb, after learning of the deaths, went on a rampage that spread around most of France's big cities and towns and prompted the government to declare a state of emergency that still remains in force, even though the riots ended November 16.

Altun said he and his friends entered the sub-station to escape a police identity check. He told Le Parisien that officers had given chase to them -- something police and officials up to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy have denied.

"We didn't want to go through an identity check. I've already undergone that and it doesn't go well," he said.

Youths in the riot-hit areas have said part of the reason for the unrest was longstanding harassment by police and often racist stereotyping by officers, some of whom used brutal tactics when seizing or questioning them.

Altun said the three of them had decided to climb over a high gate into the sub-station and remain inside because they heard "voices, dogs barking" outside. After about 30 minutes, he said, an electrical current hit them.

"My friends were knocked to the left, me to the right. I saw my clothes burning, like in a dream. There was a second flash. When I looked at Bouna, his neck had gone grey. I was very scared," he said.

Ignoring his own injuries, Altun said he raced out to get help, and only learned his friends Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old of Malian background, and Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old of Tunisian origin, were dead after being taken to hospital.

He added that police visited him at his bedside, when he was alone, and questioned him. He said he was made to sign several pages of his statement after one of them told him: "You know what's happening in Clichy because of your stupidity? Thirteen cars have been burnt."

After three weeks of unrest across the country, the final toll rose to 10,000 vehicles torched and more than 3,200 people arrested.

Altun's lawyer, Jean-Pierre Mignard, said it was clear "there was a chase" by police on October 27 and that the teenagers had been "gripped by panic".

"The question that has to be asked is: did the police know that they had gone into the site and did they let them enter?" he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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