A Marseille BAC policeman suspected of police violence has been remanded in custody. The court decision is challenged by the police management and a protest movement to win the police stations of France.

[Updated July 25, 2023 at 4:06 p.m.] The police are not taking off. On the contrary, the protest movement after the provisional detention of one of their own is gaining ground. Whether by sick leave or by resorting to “code 562”, the police desert the police stations or only provide the minimum service to express their support for the Marseille policeman imprisoned on July 20. The latter is suspected of having beaten Hedi, a 21-year-old young man, on the sidelines of the riots on the night of July 1 to 2.

Member of the BAC of Marseille, the man was indicted “violence in a meeting by a person holding public authority with the use or threat of a weapon resulting in an ITT of more than 8 days” with three of his colleagues. But he alone was remanded in custody, the other three being subject to judicial review with a ban on practicing according to Franceinfo. And it is this court decision that does not pass with the unions, nor with the management of the national police. The judiciary sticks to its positions despite the revolt and recalls that only the Superior Council of the Judiciary is legitimate to give its opinion on the matter. The provisionally imprisoned police officer appealed, the decision of the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal will be rendered on August 3.

After being limited to Marseille, then to Bouches-du-Rhône, the protest movement against the placement in pre-trial detention of a police officer has spread to other cities and other departments, such as in Ile-de-France. The SGP Police FO Unit union called for following the “562 code” which allows police officers to provide only essential activities and minimum service in police stations. The trade union organization was heard in many police stations. And when it is not under cover of this code that the police rebel, it is by using sick leave for “proven chronic state of anxiety”.

No official figure is communicated on the share of police officers mobilized in this sling, only the unions communicate on this point evoking up to 100% of police officers absent in the Marseille BACs. Depending on the departments, the police mobilized in this sling number in the hundreds or tens. The expression of fatigue after months of law enforcement mobilizations during the pension crisis or during the riots according to Christophe Rouget, police commander and secretary general of the Union of Internal Security Executives, contacted by BFMTV.

“The cup is full” added to the same chain Bruno Bartoccetti, head of the southern zone of the SGP Police FO Unit union: “The placement in pre-trial detention of our colleague was really the last straw. [… ] It becomes very hard for the policeman who has accumulated many hours of work to restore order, and it backfires.”

More than the police or the unions, it was the director general of the national police (DGPN) Frédéric Veaux who challenged the provisional detention of the Marseille police officer. “Before a possible trial, a police officer has no place in prison,” he judged in the columns of Le Parisien on July 24. A statement which called for a response from the President of the Republic during his interview on TF1 and France 2 on the same day. But Emmanuel Macron refused to comment on being the guarantor of the independence of justice. He simply said that “no one in the Republic is above the law” but added that he understood the “emotion” of the police. Without excusing the police chief’s remarks and without condemning them, the head of state’s response aroused the anger of both the left and the right.

All members of the government are playing tightrope walkers. Elisabeth Borne recalled the court decision and hoped that it could “do its job calmly” while providing its “support to the police officers who have been very mobilized in recent weeks”, on July 25. The Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, contented himself with a repetition of the Head of State on the independence of Justice. As for the Minister of the Interior, he remained silent. Gérald Darmanin, however, assured that “the DGPN has the full confidence of the minister”.

In addition to his remarks in Le Parisien, the DGPN Frédéric Veaux would have expressed to the police unions his intention of everything “to release the policeman”, according to journalist Marc Endeweld. All these positions constitute “a kind of revolt organized within the State […] without precedent”, analysis on Franceinfo Sebastian Roché, director of research in sociology at the CNRS.

For Cécile Mamelin, vice-president of the Union of magistrates, “pretrial detention meets specific, legal criteria. It is a court decision which in no way prejudges guilt and which can be subject to appeal. The words of Frédéric Veaux seem to be an attack on equality before the law by encouraging the magistrates in charge of this investigation to release the imprisoned policeman. His word can be interpreted as a questioning of the separation of powers.

The BAC official placed in pre-trial detention is suspected of police violence. More specifically, the Marseille public prosecutor’s office opened a judicial investigation for “violence in meetings by a person holding public authority resulting in an ITT of more than eight days with the use or threat of a weapon and by a person holding public authority in the performance of his duties”.

While four of the eight police officers initially placed in police custody were released, four were indicted and the official in question was placed in pre-trial detention by decision of the judge, who considered that the gravity of the facts was likely to deprive him of his liberty pending further legal proceedings. The other three agents are under judicial supervision with a “prohibition on entering into contact with the co-authors, the victim and the other protagonists of the case and a prohibition on exercising the professional activity of a police officer”. A new investigation was opened on July 24 by the Marseille prosecutor’s office to seek to establish the responsibility of Marseille police after the complaint filed by Hedi, reports La Provence.

In parallel with this case, another investigation was opened for “intentional violence in a meeting resulting in mutilation or permanent disability by a person in charge of public authority and with a weapon” after a complaint filed by another 21-year-old young man. The complaint denounces facts that allegedly took place on the night of June 30 to July 1, in downtown Marseille, also on the sidelines of the packs. The complainant claims that the police shot him with an LDB aimed at his face, he lost the use of his left eye

What happened between the police and the victim Hedi?

According to Maître Jacques Preziosi, Hedi’s lawyer, this young man without a criminal record, victim of police beatings, “had simply come to party in Marseille with a friend”. France Bleu clarifies his words: “Police then ‘rushed on them’, attacked them with ‘batons and flash-ball shots in the head’, from a short distance. The shots reportedly hit his client, who fell to the ground. ‘He was then beaten with batons and kicked.’ The toll is heavy for Hedi: an intracerebral hematoma, a broken jaw and loss of vision in his left eye.

When he came out of the coma, the young man confided in La Provence. He told how around 1:30 a.m., at the end of his service, he found his friend. The riots following the death of Nahel take place in the city, the two men thus met the police officers, whom they greeted. “We felt safe,” he said. Hedi and his friend then followed a helicopter flying overhead and found themselves in an unlit alley, where they encountered four or five men. “They were in civilian clothes but carried a weapon in their belt, a flash-ball around their neck and had truncheons”, reports Hedi’s friend in La Provence.

He then recounts that the police asked them what they were doing, pointing them with a gun and a truncheon. Hedi and his friend ran off, but the first was hit by a flashball which pinned him to the ground. The police then took him to an alley and then left him. Hedi found the strength to move and found himself in front of a grocery store, whose manager drove him to the hospital. Arrived in serious condition, he is called “the miracle” by the medical team.