French cops cleared over riots

2009-10-26 22:10

Paris - A French judge has cleared two police officers over the death of two teenagers in a motorbike crash that sparked two nights of rioting in the Paris suburbs, officials said on Monday.

Violent clashes erupted in the high-immigration northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel in November 2007 following the death of the youths, aged 15 and 16, in a motorbike collision with a police car.

It was the worst urban violence since nation wide riots in France's suburbs in late 2005, which were touched off in similar circumstances by the death of two youths fleeing a police checkpoint.

At least 130 police officers were injured as youths hurled petrol bombs and bricks and fired lead shot at police, torching cars, shops and buildings.

A judicial official said a court near Paris had dismissed the probe into the teenagers' death on Friday, clearing the two police officers involved of all responsibility.

Broke six rules

The judge found that the youths were riding an unlicensed motorbike above the speed limit, without brakes, lights or crash helmets, and did not have the right of way when they collided with the police car, the officials said.

The lawyer for the victims' families, Jean-Pierre Mignard, said the decision was "a slap in the face", and his clients planned to appeal.

Mignard wants the police to be ruled partly responsible, saying an experts' report showed their car was over the speed limit when it reached the crossroads and failed to sound a siren or flash its lights to warn oncoming vehicles.

Three youths from Villiers-le-Bel appeared in a court near Paris on Monday to appeal convictions of between one and three months in
jail, for stoning police officers during the two days of rioting.