France court overturns Clichy police verdict

Anti-riot police during rioting in Clichy-sous-Bois (file image from November 2005) A total of 21 nights of rioting followed the deaths of the two teenage boys

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France's highest court of appeal has overturned a ruling that cleared two policemen of involvement in the deaths of two teenagers in 2005.

Zyed Benna, 17, and Bouna Traore, 15, were electrocuted while hiding from police in a sub-station in the eastern Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Their deaths sparked weeks of rioting across France's deprived suburbs.

Last year, a lower court dropped a "failure to help" case against the officers for lack of concrete evidence.

The case will now go to the appeals court in the French city of Rennes.

For seven years the teenagers' families and local support groups have campaigned to have the policemen put on trial.

The judgement was welcomed by the lawyer for the families.

He said the officers' "sole objective" that night had been to catch the two teenagers, who had committed no offence.

"At no point... did the police attempt to warn the children of the risk," he said, according to France's Le Parisien newspaper.

The rioting sparked by the two teenagers' deaths spread across the country with thousands of cars torched over 21 nights of violence.

French TF1 television says that across France, 130 police officers and protesters were injured, and 300 buildings and 10,000 vehicles were set ablaze.

The court ruling on Wednesday said the lower court in Paris had not answered the plaintiffs' allegation that the police were unsure that night whether the youths had fled into the electricity sub-station.

In a radio message that night, one of the police officers said: "If they get onto the EDF site I don't much rate their chances", the court heard.

A year after the deaths, an internal police report confirmed that the teenagers had been chased by police before they entered the sub-station.

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