Paris court jails rioters for attempted murder of police

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A court in Paris has jailed several men for attempting to murder police officers and related offences during riots in a poor suburb in 2007. The violence began after two teens died when a police car collided with their motorbike.

The United Press International states that the trial involved four defendants, but the Canadian Press names a fifth convict. Half-brothers Adma and Abderhamane Karama, both 29, and Ibrahima Sow, 26, were convicted of attempted murder. The court found that they had used hunting rifles to shoot buckshot at police in Villiers-le-Bel over two nights of violence.

The Canadian Press names Maka Kante, 24, as also convicted of attempted murder. Adama was jailed for twelve years and Abderhamane for fifteen years; the brothers were described in court as the ringleaders of the shootings in the primarily black and Arab suburb. The Canadian Press says Kante received three years for his role. Sow will spend the next nine years in prison.

Samuel Lambalamba, 24, was convicted of supplying a firearm to one of the rioters and jailed for three years. One defence lawyer, Michel Konitz, told the RTL radio station that he is uncertain whether his client will appeal "even though he is not guilty." Another, Patrick Arapian, said "[w]ith sentences this harsh, one can feel political meddling in the justice system." Prosecutors had sought between seven and twenty years for the accused.

According to Radio France Internationale (RFI), the prosecution had struggled to find witnesses willing to testify among the locals. Instead, RFI says the case centred largely on anonymous written statements. The trial's last day stretched late into the night yesterday, with the verdict and sentencing following this morning. President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government are attempting to reduce violence in city suburbs.

The police union Alliance welcomed the convictions. They "will give new confidence to our colleagues," according to spokesperson Ludovic Collignon, who called the trial "symbolic". The riots in November 2007 left 119 police officers injured. Rioters burned shops, cars, a police station, two schools and a library to total more than seventy vehicles and buildings.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously been asked to consider cases where the right to a fair trial may have been breached by the use of anonymous witnesses. In the case of Van Mechelen and Others v. the Netherlands it stated that "it should be recalled that a conviction should not be based either solely or to a decisive extent on anonymous statements."