French officers get suspended jail terms in police brutality case

BOBIGNY, France – A French court on Jan 19 gave suspended jail sentences to three officers in a rare case of police brutality coming to court, after a black man suffered irreversible rectal injuries.

Mr Theo Luhaka was left disabled after suffering severe anal injuries from a police baton, as well as wounds to his head, during a stop-and-search in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois in 2017.

Activists said the police officers had got away lightly, however, and called for firm prison terms.

The verdict was handed down in Bobigny, north-east of Paris, as concerns about police violence in France are coming to the fore following the death of a 17-year-old, who was shot by police during a traffic stop in June 2023.

After more than nine hours of deliberation, Marc-Antoine Castelain, 34, who was found guilty of the truncheon blow that injured Mr Luhaka, received a 12-month suspended prison sentence. He was also banned from carrying a weapon and working on the streets as a police officer for five years.

His colleagues Jeremie Dulin, 42, and Tony Hochart, 31, received three-month suspended terms.

They were banned from carrying a weapon and working on the streets as policemen for two years.

Prosecutors had asked for a three-year suspended jail term for Castelain and suspended sentences of six and three months for Dulin and Hochart respectively.

Castelain’s blow ripped the muscle surrounding Mr Luhaka’s anus, leaving a wound 10cm deep.

But the court rejected the charge of “deliberate violence resulting in permanent mutilation or infirmity”.

The tense courtroom was packed with Mr Luhaka’s supporters and plain-clothes police for the sentencing. Afterwards, he was greeted with a round of applause.

Activists held up posters showing the faces of people who had died as a result of police violence.

Mr Luhaka, now 29, has said he once dreamed of becoming a footballer, but now suffers from incontinence and spends most of his time in his room watching the United States detective series Monk.

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