Three nights of riots in French town after 21-year-old dies in police custody


french-riot-policeoriginally published: 10th July 2009

French riot police firing teargas and plastic bullets have struggled to contain three nights of rioting and arson by youths on suburban estates in the Loire, amid protests over the death of a 21-year-old in police custody.

High-rises in Firminy, a small town bordering countryside on the outskirts of Saint-Étienne, saw running battles between police and youths in the early hours of this morning after Mohamed Benmouna, a local supermarket cashier, was taken from his police cell in a coma and died in hospital.

Benmouna, who had been arrested on extortion charges, died on Wednesday. Police said he attempted to hang himself in his cell and fell into a coma.

His Algerian family, sceptical of the official story, have filed a lawsuit to establish the circumstances of his death and whether police violence was covered up.

The local state prosecutor, Jacques Pin, said a postmortem confirmed Benmouna died of suffocation and his body showed no trace of violence or police abuse. But he said video surveillance equipment that would normally have filmed Benmouna’s cell was not functioning properly. The police inspectorate has opened an investigation.

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