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French police commissioner charged over man’s death during raid

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Police stand guard near the French Consulate building to beef up security following a protest by extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), in Karachi on April 15, 2021. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP


French prosecutors said Tuesday that they had charged a police commissioner over the death of a man killed when officers tried to shut down a rave concert in the western city of Nantes two years ago.

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The body of Steve Canico, 24, was found in the Loire river a month after the controversial police raid in the early hours of June 22, after the country’s national music celebration day.

An analysis of Canico’s cellphone determined that he fell into the river during clashes that saw more than a dozen concertgoers go into the water, prompting accusations that officers used excessive force.

Several eyewitnesses said they had been blinded by tear gas during the chaotic rout as baton-wielding officers moved in to disperse the crowd.

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Canico’s family and friends have long demanded that officials be held accountable for his death, which came as police were already facing criticism over heavy-handed tactics used against “yellow vest” anti-government protesters.

The police commissioner in charge of the intervention, Gregoire Chassaing, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to the prosecutor’s office in Rennes, where the case was transferred.

“He contests the basis and the terms of his indictment but does not wish to make any statement while the inquiry is ongoing,” his lawyer Louis Cailliez told AFP.

Another commissioner, Thierry Palermo, who was the regional director of public security at the time, was named an “assisted witness” after questioning Monday, meaning he remains under investigation but there is currently not enough evidence for filing charges.

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Six other people will be questioned in the coming weeks by the judge leading the investigation, including the mayor of Nantes, Johanna Rolland, and the former top government official, or prefect, for the region, prosecutors said.

Last month around 1,000 people demonstrated in Nantes to mark the second anniversary of Canico’s death.

“This is a great relief for the family and a feeling of justice that they have needed for the past two years,” said Cecile de Oliveira, a lawyer for the family.


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