France: Three officers on trial over shocking assault case that left Black man disabled

Stephen Nartey January 11, 2024
Theodore Luhaka was visited by then-President Francois Hollande. Photo: AP

Three police officers are currently on trial in France for allegedly assaulting and causing life-changing injuries to a man named Theodore Luhaka during a brutal arrest in 2017 when he was 22.

The incident, which occurred in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, involved Luhaka being beaten with a telescopic baton, claiming he was also raped with the baton, beaten on his head and face, and exposed to tear gas. A medical report from 2019 indicated that Luhaka’s injuries would necessitate lifelong treatment, according to Daily Mail.

One of the accused police officers, Marc-Antoine Castelain, is facing charges for allegedly beating Luhaka with a collapsible baton during an ID check. Luhaka sustained severe anal injuries, resulting in a stoma and a four-inch gash to his large intestine. Castelain was initially accused of raping Luhaka with the baton, but the police contended that it was an accidental violation, asserting that Luhaka’s trousers “slipped down on their own” during the incident.

The rape charges have been dropped since then, but the case sparked significant protests in Paris at the time.

“The blow I gave was compliant with police rules and legitimate,” Castelain, 34, told the court in the Paris suburb of Bobigny this week. He said not a single day passes without him thinking about Luhaka’s injury, describing it as “awful”.

During the courtroom proceedings, Castelain conveyed his “compassion” towards Luhaka. Both Castelain and fellow officer Jeremie Dulin, aged 42, are facing charges of aggravated violence committed in a group, by members of the security forces, and with a weapon. A third officer, Tony Hochart, aged 31, is facing charges of violence aggravated by two factors.

Charges were dropped against a fourth policeman who was present, and initial rape charges against Castelain were also dismissed.

Security camera footage from the conclusion of Luhaka’s arrest on February 2, 2017, captures four officers surrounding him as he lies on the ground, later seen propped up with his trousers pulled down. Additional footage shows officers escorting the injured Luhaka, limping and missing one shoe, to a police car and placing him in the back seat.

Following the incident, Luhaka underwent emergency surgery and spent two weeks in the hospital, declared unfit to work for 60 days.

He claimed that he inadvertently encountered a police identity check targeting drug dealers and, during the arrest, was allegedly raped with a baton, subjected to racial abuse, spat at, and beaten around his genitals. Luhaka alleged that Castelain pulled down his trousers and raped him with a truncheon during the brutal arrest. However, this specific charge has been dropped.

Describing the incident in 2017, Luhaka stated that he fell onto his stomach, devoid of strength, after being subjected to tear gas around the head and mouth before being struck on the head. Luhaka’s sister, Eleanor, noted in 2017 that her brother was seriously affected by the arrest, stating he was “not the same” and experienced sleep disturbances in the months following the incident.

The wounds suffered by Luhaka, including a four-inch gash to his large intestine, were described by his sister Eleanor, who mentioned that he still excretes through a hole in his stomach into a bag.

Defense lawyers argued that the force used during the arrest was legitimate. Luhaka’s lawyer, Antoine Vey, expressed concern over the notion of justifying such violence.

If found guilty, Marc-Antoine Castelain could face up to 15 years in jail, Jeremie Dulin faces 10 years, and Tony Hochart faces seven. The trial is anticipated to conclude on January 19.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 11, 2024


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