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Court asked to drop case against police

Associated Press / September 11, 2010

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PARIS — French prosecutors want to drop a highly charged case against two police officers in the electrocution deaths of two teens that sparked fiery nationwide riots in 2005, a court official said yesterday.

Lawyers for the victims’ families protested, saying the move would give the police officers undeserved impunity.

Five years after the unrest, tensions between youth and police still simmer, and sometimes explode into violence in neglected housing developments around France.

On Oct. 27, 2005, Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Another boy with them had severe burns.

Two police officers were charged with “nonassistance to a person in danger,’’ which carries up to five years in prison and up to $95,400 in fines.

The Bobigny prosecutor’s office has submitted a request to drop the charges, saying there is not enough evidence to show the officers knew the two teens were inside the power station when they died, according to the judicial official, who was not authorized to be publicly named.

It’s now up to investigating judges to accept the request or ignore it and send the case to trial.

Two lawyers for the families, Jean-Pierre Mignard and Emmanuel Tordjman, said in a statement the prosecutor’s request “is aimed at covering with impunity an action contrary to the law and to police ethics.’’

Local youths, blaming police for the deaths, set cars and property afire in an eruption of anger that spread for three weeks to similar neighborhoods with large Arab and black populations.

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