French police sue sister of Adama Traoré, black man who died in custody

Assa Traore in Paris on April 25, 2019.
Assa Traore in Paris on April 25, 2019. AFP - KENZO TRIBOUILLARD

The sister of a black French man who died in police custody five years ago was to appear in court Thursday charged with defamation for publicly naming the three gendarmes involved in his death.   


Assa Traoré has become a figure of France’s anti-racist struggle since her 24-year-old brother Adama lost his life after being handcuffed by police and pinned to the ground in the northern suburbs of Paris.

Experts have been unable to agree if he was suffocated, or whether an underlying medical condition was to blame. Investigations are ongoing.

In a series of Facebook posts published several years after Adama’s 2016 death, Assa wrote: "I accuse the gendarmes of having killed my brother by crushing him with the weight of their bodies.” 

The gendarmes, whose first and last names were published, say they were forced to leave their assignments to protect the safety of themselves and their families.

Assa – who has led anti-racism street marches via her “Justice for Adama” online campaign – has already been convicted of violating the gendarmes’ presumption of innocence, and ordered too pay a 4,000 euro fine.

Her supporters are planning a rally on Friday in front of the Paris Judicial Court, where the case is being heard.

'French George Floyd'

French protests against racial profiling and police violence –especially in the poorer suburbs of Paris – have gained momentum since George Floyd's brutal killing in the United States.

“The death of George Floyd has a strong echo in France in the death of my little brother,” Assa Traoré told the crowd at one rally.

“What’s happening in the United States is happening in France. Our brothers are dying.”

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