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France Police Riots

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New arrests as protests over alleged police rape continue

A van of French radio station RTL burning during clashes on the edge of a rally to denounce police brutality after a black man was allegedly sodomised with a baton during an arrest. Gregoire HOZAN / AFP

At least 25 people were arrested overnight Monday during riots in suburbs around Paris as protests continue over the alleged rape of a local community worker known simply as Theo.

Twelve people were arrested in Bondy and Epinay-sur-Seine in the department of Seine Saint-Denis for throwing projectiles and firebombs, while 11 others were arrested in the neighboring department of Val d'Oise, with two others arrested in the western and southern department of Yvelines.

The arrests come the night before President Francois Hollande was due to visit a job centre in Seine-Saint-Denis where he is expected to announce a new jobs initiative.

The unrest in the northern suburbs follow several nights of violence, triggered by the brutal arrest of Theo, in the suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.

The youth worker suffered such severe injuries to his rectum during the arrest that he needed major emergency surgery and remains in hospital. One policeman has been placed under investigation for rape, suspected of deliberately shoving a truncheon into the young man’s rectum. Three other officers have been charged with “deliberate violence in a group”.

The case has revived past controversies over the relationship between police and immigrant communities in France’s rundown suburbs, where police are regularly accused of discrimination and brutality.

In 2005, the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electricity substation sparked weeks of riots in France. Around 10,000 cars were burned and 6,000 people were arrested.

The latest case comes in the midst of a presidential election campaign and follows the death of 24-year-old Adama Traore in police custody in another Parisian suburb last year