Police officer claims minister pressured her on Nice attack

2016-07-24 22:13
A hooded French police officer leaves the building where Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel lived. (Luca Bruno, AP)

A hooded French police officer leaves the building where Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel lived. (Luca Bruno, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A new crisis hit France's government on Sunday when a senior police officer claimed the interior minister pressured her to alter a report into security at the Nice fireworks display where 84 were killed when a man rammed a lorry into the crowd.

The minister, Bernard Cazeneuve - whose account of police deployments on the night of July 14 celebrations has already faced questions - has been the lightning rod for criticism over alleged security failures.

Having resisted calls for his resignation from the far right, who are strong in the Riviera city, the Socialist hit back at the "grave accusations" made by the officer, saying he would sue for defamation.

Sandra Bertin, who is in charge of Nice's system of security cameras, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper she had been "harassed for an hour" by Cazeneuve on the phone after he sent a commissioner to see her the day after the attack.

She said she had been told to detail the presence of the local police at the Bastille Day fireworks event and also to report "that the national police had also been deployed at two points".

"The national police were perhaps there, but I couldn't see them on the video," Bertin told the newspaper.

"He ordered me to put in [the report] the specific positions of the national police which I had not seen on the screen," she was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, the left-leaning Liberation daily reported that only one local police car was barring the entry to the seafront pedestrian zone when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel forced his lorry onto the Promenade des Anglais, mowing down families.

Since the carnage 10 days ago - the third major attack in France in 18 months - Cazeneuve has also been locked in an escalating row with the right-wing leaders of the Riviera city over claims of slack security.

Order to erase video

The furore was further fuelled by a request from prosecutors that security camera videos of the night of the attack be erased.

Local authorities claimed it amounted to "destruction of proof" but prosecutors, who already had a copy, said it was to stop "shocking" images of the events -- in which 350 people were also hurt -- leaking out.

Former Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, who now heads the regional administration, has also accused the government of lying over the number of police and soldiers protecting the crowds that night.

President Francois Hollande was forced on Friday to say that he still had "full confidence" in Cazeneuve, a key member of his government, promising "truth and transparency" on the security measures that were in place.

Cazeneuve categorically denied on Sunday that he had sent a representative to the local Nice police, and said he never talked to the officer, "contrary to what Madame Bertin claims".

Francois Molins, the Paris anti-terrorist prosecutor who is leading the investigation, said he had sent two officers to talk to Nice police on July 15 as part of his inquiry.

Cazeneuve called the claims "undignified" and pointed the finger at Estrosi, hinting that he had orchestrated "daily attacks" on him even though he was also partly responsible for security in Nice.

But the far right National Front weighed in saying "the minister gave the impression that he was trying to stop the truth" leaking out in what they claimed was becoming "a state scandal".

And Nice MP Eric Ciotti, an Estrosi ally from the same opposition Republicans party, said the police officer's testimony was "another element which shows that something is not transparent".

Read more on:    france

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.