Théo Luhaka: French police officers given suspended sentences for brutal assault

Théo Luhaka arrives in court in Paris after he was left disabled after suffering severe anal injuries from a police baton
Image caption,Théo Luhaka was left disabled after suffering severe anal injuries from a police baton

Three French police officers have been given suspended jail sentences for assaulting a black man with a baton in a north-west Paris suburb.

One officer received a 12-month suspended sentence and the other two received three-month sentences.

Théo Luhaka was left disabled with irreversible anal injuries from a police baton during a stop-and-search in Aulnay-sous-Bois in February 2017.

Mr Luhaka, then 22, also said he was beaten, racially abused and spat at.

The case sparked unrest and protests on housing estates in Paris.

Officer Marc-Antoine Castelain, 34, was found guilty of a truncheon blow that seriously injured Mr Luhaka, and was handed a 12-month suspended sentence.

Jeremie Dulin, 42, and Tony Hochart, 31, were handed three-month suspended sentences for intentional violence, following a trial which started on 9 January.

In French law, a suspended sentence means the offender avoids prison for a specified time providing they do not commit another criminal offence and fulfil other obligations.

“I felt like I was raped,” Mr Luhaka, now aged 29, told the Assizes court in Bobigny on Monday.

High school students gather during a demonstration at place de la Nation in tribute to Theo Luhaka, a young man seriously wounded and allegedly raped during a police control in Aulnay sous bois northern Paris,
Image caption,The case shocked France and led to several nights of unrest and protests on the streets of Paris

The following account contains details which readers may find distressing.

Video footage of the assault was shared widely on social media, caused an uproar and prompted then-President Francois Hollande to visit Mr Luhaka in hospital.

Mr Luhaka was a young sports mentor with no criminal record and had hopes of starting a professional football career in Belgium.

On the day he was attacked, he said he left his house and encountered a police identity check targeting drug dealers by chance.

The police operation turned violent and he was set upon by four officers, he said.

CCTV footage showed Mr Luhaka forced to the ground and beaten for eight minutes.

Mr Luhaka said one officer proceeded to pull his trousers down and assault him with a truncheon.

Bleeding, he was then taken by the officers to the police station by car where he was also racially abused.

Mr Luhaka was treated for serious injuries to his anus, which were initially investigated as rape.

Prosecutors had asked for a three-year suspended jail term for Castelain, who yielded the baton and has been accused of voluntary violence that led to a “permanent disability”.

They had requested suspended sentences of six and three months for his two colleagues Dulin and Hochart for taking part in the aggravated voluntary violent assault.

The case against a fourth officer was dropped.

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