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France court to try 2 officers over teen deaths that sparked 2005 riots

Two French police officers who chased three teens into a power substation, resulting in two of their deaths from electrocution, will stand trial on criminal charges, lawyers said Friday. The officers are charged with "non-assistance to a person in danger" [CP report] under Article 223-6 of the French penal code [text] for failing to alert anyone that the teens had entered the substation while running from officers. The officers, one of whom was on the scene and the other of whom was listening to radio reports from a command post, claim they were not aware that the teens had entered the substation. The teens' deaths set off riots in France [JURIST news archive] that lasted three weeks. Investigating judges decided to press forward with the charges, despite last month's recommendation from prosecutors [JURIST report] that the charges be dropped due to lack of evidence that the officers knew the teens had entered the substation. If convicted, each officer faces up five years in prison and fines that could reach nearly USD $100,000.

Officials first charged the officers for failure to assist in 2007. In 2006, an internal police investigation found that the officers had pursued the youths [JURIST report], a charge the officers originally denied, and that the officers acted with a "lack of thought" in not calling the power company to have the substation shut down immediately. Also In 2006, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [JURIST news archive] promised to strengthen anti-vandalism laws [JURIST report] in France after a man was injured in violence marking the one-year anniversary of the 2005 riots. In 2006, France began to deport [JURIST report] some of the foreign rioters. In early 2006, France lifted its state of emergency [JURIST report] implemented during the riots. The riots began in late October 2005 and continued into November [JURIST report] of that year.

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