French police chief sparks outcry over support for officer who assaulted protester

French police chief sparks outcry over support for officer who assaulted protester

Police should not be detained despite 'mistakes or serious infractions during his work,' Frederic Veaux says, triggering debate on judicial impartiality

By Feiza Ben Mohamed

NICE, France (AA) — Remarks by France's chief of police sparked outcry in the country after he backed an officer who was detained for assaulting a young man into a coma in the southern city of Marseille.

Frederic Veaux was one of many law enforcement authorities who came out in support of the officer, who beat up a 22-year-old protester demonstrating against the police killing of a Nahel M., a teenager of North African descent in Paris.

Veaux told French daily Le Parisien on Sunday that "before a possible trial, a police officer's place is not the prison, even if he committed mistakes or serious infractions during his work."

The protester, referred to as Hedi, was shot in the head with a flash-ball and beaten up until unconscious by several men he assumed were undercover police.

After waking up in the hospital, he alleged that the group had left him for dead after the assault.

The Marseille police officer's colleagues took sick leave to protest the judiciary procedure against him, while Paris Police Chief Laurent Nunez voiced support for Veaux's position.

Carlos Martens Bilongo, a member of parliament from left-wing party La France Insoumise, told Anadolu that Veaux's was an "unacceptable message to the nation which is a victim of police violence."

Bilongo underlined the need for police reform, while fellow party member and lawmaker William Martinet criticized "out of control" police and the country's "mute Interior Ministry."

Protests erupted in France late last month when a police officer fatally shot and killed Nahel M., 17, during a traffic check in the suburb of Nanterre. The incident reportedly occurred after he ignored orders to stop.

Following Nahel's killing, thousands of people took to the streets across France, including in Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. Incidents of looting reportedly took place during the protests.

- Trade unions' reaction

A trade union representing magistrates has criticized Veaux's remarks, saying they "question the principle of equality before the law," and flout the separation of powers and judicial independence.

In a statement on Monday, the union called on President Emmanuel Macron to intervene and condemn "this attack on the separation of powers."

High-school students' union La Voix Lyceenne's Secretary Manes Nadel accused the police of openly exerting "pressure on the judiciary."

In an interview on Monday, Macron told broadcasters TF1 and France 2 that "no one's above the law," but added that he "understands police officers' feelings."

La France Insoumise's parliamentary group chief Mathilde Panot criticized Macron for "irresponsibility."

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