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French policemen cite fatigue in abuse probe

#French #policemen #cite #fatigue #abuse #probe

French policemen said they were “mentally exhausted” when they were recorded threatening arrested protesters, in a case that has triggered an investigation, an internal report showed Friday.

Members of the Motorised Brigades for the Repression of Violent Action (BRAV-M), a Paris unit of policemen on motorbikes, are being investigated over abusive comments recorded late on March 20 as they detained youth during protests against pension reforms.

In a report to their supervisors, seen by AFP Friday, members of the unit defended themselves, saying fatigue was to blame.

One of them, Yann C., said that he and his team had been on patrol since 10 am when the recording was made after 11 pm.

Another, Benoit A., described “shifts of 14 hours, even 16 hours” during the demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, which includes increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64.

“Eating and drinking were complicated,” he wrote, claiming some officers took “medication” because they did not have time to go to the bathroom.

“We were physically and mentally exhausted,” he said.

In the recording, shared by French media on March 24, members of the police unit can be heard picking on a 23-year-old Chadian student, who has accused them of slapping him.

The policemen make sexually explicit, sexist and racist comments, while one member of the force tells a protester that they better watch out or next time they will have to take “a thing called an ambulance to go to hospital”.

Lawyer Arie Alimi, who is representing the Chadian student and another female protester, said he was not convinced by the policemen’s arguments.

“Fatigue cannot exonerate someone of criminal liability,” he said.

But, he added, “it could invoke the criminal responsibility of the police chief himself in view of the intensity of the operations he ordered.”

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said he was “extremely shocked by the comments” in the audio file.

The policemen caught on tape have been taken off duty, but they have not been suspended, Paris police have said.

The inquiries are ongoing.

At least two other BRAV-M policemen are being investigated for alleged brutality, a source close to the case has said, asking not to be named.

Human rights groups have accused French police of disproportionate use of force in the pension demonstrations since January, which have turned more violent since the government last month forced the retirement bill through parliament without a vote.

But the interior ministry insists it has been responding to “far-left” radicals intent on damaging public property.

Activists and left-wing lawmakers have called for the BRAV-M to be dissolved, but Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin this week rejected that request.

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