EU: French police officer to stay in custody over riot gun violence
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The French policeman who shot a 22-year-old man in the head with a rubber bullet during riots in Marseille a month ago must remain in pre-trial detention.

A number of colleagues across France have expressed outrage at the decision to detain the officer.

His skull was disfigured by the “flash ball” that injured Hedi, an assistant restaurant manager.

One riot gun shot was admitted to the court by the officer.

Despite this, the 35-year-old policeman, named Christophe, said he didn’t see anyone lying on the ground wounded, and his lawyer told the court there was “no proof” he hit him.

A group of four policemen are facing prosecution for violence committed by an authorized group during the riots that erupted in France in early July.

A traffic check in Nanterre near Paris led to unrest after a 17-year-old called Nahel was shot dead by a police officer.

An immigrant from North Africa, Hedi, survived being shot in the head but lost part of his skull. As a result of the accident, he has lost sight in his left eye, suffers migraines, and wears a helmet when walking.

In Aix-en-Provence, the officer’s lawyer appealed for his release to the court. In addition to the police unions, he received the backing of the head of the national police.

The prosecutor, however, told the court that CCTV images clearly showed that the victim had been attacked. Due to the risk of “fraudulent collusion” with colleagues, the officer should remain in pre-trial detention.

It was clear from the evidence that the officer was involved in the incident, and even despite his partial confession, his initial denial discredited his entire testimony.

The decision to keep Hedi in custody was welcomed by Hedi’s lawyer, Jacques Preziosi. While the officer’s account was incoherent, he stated “finally we have a confession that he fired the LBD… until now everyone denied it”.

Hedi received a phone call from government spokesman Olivier Véran earlier this week wishing him a speedy recovery.

During the early hours of 2 July, the 22-year-old finished work at a restaurant and met up with his friend Lilian. In the midst of the riots, they were confronted by four officers from the police anti-crime brigade (BAC).

After saying good evening to [the police], we soon realized they were annoyed and not interested in talking.

Hedi was shot in the head and fell to the ground while his friend managed to escape. A five-minute ordeal that lasted as long as five minutes left him feeling like something was burning inside his skull. “I was dragged along the ground and beaten,” he recalls.

A rare decision by magistrates to remand one of the four police officers involved in the Marseille incident has sparked widespread anger among other officers.

It is estimated that 5% of police have taken sick leave or worked to rule since he was detained.