Calls for police in French electrocution trial to be cleared

19th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors in the trial of two police officers accused of failing to prevent the deaths of a pair of teenagers a decade ago that triggered nationwide rioting called on Thursday for them to be cleared.

"You don't ease the pain of one drama by adding another injustice," said prosecutor Delphine Dewailly as she called for the case against the two officers to be dropped.

The officers, Sebastien Gaillemin and Stephanie Klein, have denied knowing that a group of teenagers were hiding in an electricity sub-station near their homes in the Clichy-sous-Bois housing project northeast of Paris on October 27, 2005.

Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, died after being electrocuted, and a third boy was severely burned.

Gaillemin and Klein are being tried for "non-assistance to individuals in danger", a charge carrying a maximum prison term of five years, and fines of up to 75,000 euros ($79,000).

The deaths sparked rioting, arson, and running clashes with security forces in Clichy and quickly spread across hundreds of other communities, lasting for three weeks.

Concerns over the darker consequences of the growing socio-ethnic split between mainstream France and its marginalised inhabitants rose higher still after the January attacks in Paris by youths who had embraced radical Islam.

One of the lawyers for the families of the victims, Jean-Pierre Mignard, accused the police of having a default setting of wanting to make an arrest rather than protecting the public.

"One shout and they would have been saved," he said.

The trial is due to wrap up on Friday with the defence summing up.

© 2015 AFP

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