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Paris police officers suspended over beating of black music producer

Sean Morrison
·3-min read
Michel Zecler  (AP)
Michel Zecler (AP)

Paris police officers suspended over the beating of a black music producer, who was repeatedly punched, teared and struck with a truncheon.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has ordered the suspension of the officers involved in the case who were filmed beating the man.

The incident came as president Emmanuel Macron's government is pushing a new bill that restricts the ability to film police, which has prompted protests.

Civil liberties are concerned that the move would allow police brutality to go undiscovered and unpunished.

Videos first published on Thursday by French news website Loopsider show the violent arrest of music producer Michel Zecler in Paris on Saturday.

The video images, from a security camera inside the studio and neighbours outside, show three officers following Mr Zecler inside his music studio.

They can be seen repeatedly punching him and beating him with a truncheon.

Mr Zecler said he feels "good" now that "the truth is out".

"I want to understand why I have been assaulted by people who were wearing a police uniform," he said.

"I want justice actually, because I believe in the justice of my country."

Mr Zecler said that the officers hurled repeated insults at him, including a racist epithet.

He added that he still does not understand why officers decided to arrest him. He suffered injuries to his head, forearms and legs.

His lawyer Hafida El Ali said: "He asked them what they wanted, if they wanted to check his identity.

"They didn't stop beating him. The video of the violence (inside the studio) lasts for 12 minutes."

At some point the officers called in reinforcements and went outside. They then threw a tear gas grenade into the studio to get those inside to come out, according to Ms El Ali.

She added that nine others who were recording music in the studio basement were also beaten and thrown to the ground.

Allegedly, the violence only stopped when a police officer saw they were being filmed.

Mr Zecler was taken into custody.

Ms El Ali said: "These videos are essential because initially my client was being detained... for violence against people with public authority.

"This is very serious. The reality is that if we didn't have these videos maybe my client would be in prison."

Mr Darmanin tweeted that the Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN), the body that investigates allegations of police misconduct, is looking into the case.

He added: "I want disciplinary proceedings as soon as possible."

The Paris police prefecture said in a statement that IGPN will seek to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the man's arrest.

The Paris prosecutor's office is also investigating the officers' actions.

The prosecutor's office said on Thursday that it has dropped the proceedings against Michel opened on the day of his arrest.

Instead, it has opened an investigation for "acts of violence by a person in position of public authority" and "false declaration".

According to Le Parisien newspaper, based on the written record of the officers' declarations the day after the arrest, Mr Zecler drew their attention because he was not wearing a mask - which is mandatory outdoors in Paris.

They said he seemed "nervous" and a "strong drug smell" was emanating from him, adding that he was getting "dangerous" toward them.

Mr Zecler's lawyer said: "My client never committed any violence against the police. He did not even defend himself."

It's the second such police brutality investigation in Paris this week prompted by video footage.

The government ordered an internal police investigation on Tuesday after officers were filmed tossing migrants out of tents and intentionally tripping one while evacuating a protest camp.

That same day, France's lower house of parliament approved a draft law meant to strengthen local police and provide greater protection to all officers.

It notably makes it a crime to publish images of officers with intent to cause them harm.

The bill, which has some public support after recent terrorist attacks, will now go to the Senate.