Four young men found guilty of shooting at the police during riots on the outskirts of Paris in 2007 were jailed for between three and 15 years early Sunday. Defence lawyers denounced the sentences as “extremely harsh” and claimed that political considerations had influenced the cases.
The four were found to have fired buckshot from hunting rifles during two nights of battles with the police in Villiers-le-Bel, north of Paris. During the clashes 119 police officers were injured, four of them seriously. The violence erupted after two teenagers were killed in a motorcycle collision with a police car.
Two 29-year-old half-brothers, Abderhamane and Adma Karama, who were described as ringleaders by the prosecution, received 15 and 12 years respectively. Ibrahima Sow, 26, was jailed for nine years.
A fourth man, Samuel Lambalamba, was given three years after being found guilty of providing one of the weapons used.
“With sentences this harsh, one can feel political meddling in the justice system,” commented defence lawyer Patrick Arapian after the verdict, despite the prosecution’s claim that “we are not trying the banlieue (outskirts), nor young people, nor Villiers-le-Bel”.
With few local people prepared to take the stand against the accused, most of the prosecution case relied on anonymous written testimony. The defence claims that some of the witnesses had done a deal with the police while others could have been informers.
The prosecution welcomed the verdicts, as did police unions which claimed that they would restore morale in the force.