Theo ‘rape’ case fuels clashes with police in Paris area

French police in Nantes, file picFrench police methods in some deprived suburbs are under intense scrutiny

Protesters have attacked a police station on the southern outskirts of Paris amid anger over the alleged rape of a young black man by French police.

The overnight violence in Les Ulis followed earlier clashes between police and protesters at the weekend, in which several dozen people were detained.

In Les Ulis three police cars were damaged, French media report.

Tension has gripped some Paris suburbs since 2 February, when a man called Theo was allegedly beaten up and raped.

At the weekend there were clashes between youths and police in Bobigny and Aulnay-sous-Bois – north-eastern suburbs – and in Argenteuil, a north-western suburb.

French media say youths hurled paving stones and petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas. Several cars were set ablaze and some bus shelters were vandalised.

High unemployment and racial tension blight several struggling neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Paris – commonly called the “banlieues”. Police have been accused of heavy-handed methods in areas with large immigrant populations.

Bobigny riot, 11 Feb 17An RTL radio car was set ablaze during a riot in Bobigny on 11 February
Theo/President Hollande in hospital, 7 Feb 17President Hollande visited Theo last week, as the assault left France in shock

Theo, a youth worker, said that in Aulnay-sous-Bois he was sodomised by police with a truncheon, as well as racially abused, spat on and beaten around his genitals.

One officer has been charged with rape, and three more with assault since Theo was hospitalised. He underwent emergency surgery and President Francois Hollande visited him last week.

On Tuesday, Mr Hollande plans to visit Aubervilliers, one of the banlieues, the daily Le Monde reports.

There are fears of banlieue riots on the scale of 2005, when violence gripped several French cities. The violence coincides with political tensions as the French presidential election campaign gains momentum.

National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, widely expected to reach the decisive second round of the election, accuses the political “establishment” of neglecting the banlieues and allowing extremism to fester there.

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