Cars torched as Paris suburb seethes over alleged police violence

PARIS (Reuters) – Cars and rubbish-bins were set ablaze in a night of violence in a tense Paris suburb following allegations of police brutality in the arrest of a 22-year-old local man.

One policeman has been placed under formal investigation for suspected rape and three others for unnecessary violence on Feb. 2 during the arrest of the man in Aulnay-sous-Bois outside the French capital.

The area is one of several where riots erupted in 2005 after two youths who fled police died electrocuted in a power station where they took cover.

That incident sparked three weeks of rioting in which 10,000 cars and 300 buildings were set on fire, prompting then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy to declare a state of emergency and drawing worldwide attention to the contrasts between Paris and the bleak suburbs that surround it.

In Aulnay, where the unemployment rate of 19 percent is near double the national average, petrol-bombs were thrown and police used tear gas in the overnight confrontation around, a suburb some 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) north-east of central Paris.

“This violence is incomprehensible,” Aulnay-sous-Bois mayor Bruno Beschizza said of the incidents.

One report on BFM TV spoke of police firing real bullets into the air to escape when surrounded by a group of angry locals at one point in the night of Monday. It spoke of 24 arrests.

Local police said in a statement the man arrested on Feb. 2, who was only identified by his first name, Theo, accused one of the policemen involved of inserting a baton in his anus.

A hospital examination had revealed wounds to his rectum, face and head, it said.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said an investigation would see to establish exactly what had happened, adding that: “Police officers must always behave in exemplary manner.”

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux, questioned in parliament, said the arrested man was now in hospital with serious injuries but called for calm in the area.

The area where the arrest and subsequent violence took place is a spot where thousands of low-cost, low-rent apartments were built at the end of the 1960s to house workers at a nearby Citroen car factory that hired a lot of its workforce from French former colonies in Africa.

The factory closed in 2013.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Brian Love)


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