Five members of Marseille’s branch of the RAID elite tactical unit of the French National Police have been arrested in relation to the death of a 27-year-old male, referred to as “Mohamed B”, during France-wide riots in early July.
Officials have also announced that around 20 officers will be summoned to give an account regarding the death, which so far remains unexplained.
According to a report by Le Parisien, the body of Mohamed B was discovered outside his mother’s home on July 1, with an investigation into the man’s death formally beginning a few days later.
Prosecutors believe that he died of cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest with a projectile from an “LBD” – a type of sub-lethal weapon used by police in the country.
The man’s wife has publicly blamed the police for the death of Mohamed B on French media.
“In my opinion, it was the policeman who shot it,” she said, claiming that the officer must have seen her spouse filming him and “wanted to retaliate”.
The arrests come at a time of heightened tension between French police and the government, with many officers unhappy at their treatment in the aftermath of the widespread rioting, which left many people injured and much property damaged.
Police unions in the country have since demanded that changes to French law be made to ensure that officers are not subject to pre-trial detention for crimes they allegedly commit while on the job.
Threatening to strike if this demand was not met, Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin appeared to agree to implement the reforms in July, provoking accusations that he was “helping to undermine the separation of powers” in the country.
Socialist MP Olivier Faure went so far as to allege Darmanin was part of a “triumvirate” trying to “defy the Republic”, accusing him, National Police director Frédéric Veaux and Paris police prefect Laurent Nuñez of “conspiring to undermine” the nation’s rule of law.