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French President Hollande condemns near-fatal beating of Roma teen

French President Francois Hollande has condemned the near fatal assault of a Roma teenager by a mob on the outskirts of Paris. The youth has been placed in an artificially induced coma.

In a statement issued by the French presidency on Tuesday, Hollande described the beating as an "unspeakable and unjustifiable" act and called for "everything to be done to find those responsible for this attack."

Police union official Luc Poignant told France's LCI television on Tuesday that about a dozen people had entered the Roma camp in the Pierrefitte-sur-Seine suburb north of Paris last Friday and seized the 16-year-old youth, whom they suspected of having burglarized a local apartment. He was then locked in a cellar and beaten until he lost consciousness. A police source cited by the AFP news agency said around a dozen people had taken part in the assault.

Police, who had been alerted by the boy's mother, later found him abandoned by a road.

Poignant said doctors had placed the boy into a medically induced coma "because he was in so much pain." An unnamed judicial source told AFP that the boy's "life is in danger. He is in a coma."

The mayor of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Michel Fourcade, said the youth was known to police, who had questioned him several times this month in connection with a series of local robberies.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve condemned the attackers as vigilantes.

"It is exclusively up to security forces to ensure that public order is respected," he said.

Past controversies

France's treatment of Roma has led to controversy in the past, most recently last October, when schoolgirl Leonarda Dibrani was forced to get off a bus full of classmates during a school outing before being deported to Kosovo with the rest of her family. The case sparked nationwide demonstrations by high school students.

Earlier this year, the human rights group Amnesty International accused the European Union and its member states of failing to protect its Roma populations from discrimination and violence.

pfd/hc (AP, AFP, dpa)

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