World Bulletin/News Desk
A police unit in Marseille assigned to tackle spiralling gang violence, drug trafficking and a murder rate that have shocked France is deeply corrupt, the city prosecutor said on Friday.
"The feeling is of a gangrene that has struck, that has touched this service," prosecutor Jacques Dallest said of the 60-member brigade policing the crime-ridden and heavily immigrant northern areas of France's second largest city.
During a search this week, inspectors from France's police watchdog division found hashish, 800 euros ($1,000) in cash, plus marijuana and jewels, hidden in false ceilings in the offices, lockers, and homes of suspects working in the northern police brigade.
"I consider it an organised system of theft, racketeering, and drug trafficking," Dallest told a news conference after 12 of 13 officers arrested this week were taken before judges. He said further arrests were likely.
Later on Friday, investigating magistrates jailed four of the 12 officers and put them under a formal judicial inquiry - a process that usually, but not always, leads to trial under French law.
The rampant crime in Marseille, as well as a similar scandal in France's third largest city, Lyon, have posed a huge headache for Socialist President Francois Hollande.
He is under pressure to tackle the breakdown in law and order in Marseille's northern parts, which have been subject to stepped-up policing since 2008, but has so far rejected political calls for the army to intervene.
Hollande, whose approval ratings have tumbled since his May election, is caught between campaign promises to help youth living in dangerous housing project communities at the periphery of ma n y French cities, and the need to be seen to be tough on crime.
The number of murders in Marseille had reached 12 as of Aug. 30, just short of last year's total of 13. The violence in the historic port's northern district takes place far from the plush coastal neighbourhoods on the Mediterranean.
Dallest described the alleged racket as "pretty much a whole catalogue of the most unacceptable schemes" that include taking drugs, cigarettes and cash from dealers and others, and conducting illegal searches of crime suspects, sharing the seized drugs and money between officers.
"There is no place for those who tarnish the police uniform," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters.
The affair adds to a separate corruption investigation in Lyon, where the deputy police chief is accused of selling drugs.
The Marseille suspects face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The family of Aafia Siddiqui, currently serving a prison term in the United States for attempted murder, rejected any link to the Islamic State
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's call comes after Palestinian lawmakers accused Israel of an anti-democratic crackdown as the Gaza war rages, with dozens of elected officials detained, placed under investigation or restricted in their movements.
Officer Dan Page called black people “little perverts” while holding a copy of the Bible and implied that Muslims were murderers.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing government figures, said that 36,441 people had lost their homes in the floods as of Aug. 21.
Norway's Espen Barth Eide will be taking over as the UN's Special Adviser on Cyprus from Australia's Alexander Downer.
Ukrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk confirms that there are no casualties among the stadium staff.
Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said she was preparing new laws to tackle militants at home and to stop them going abroad to fight.
Forces of renegade General Khalifa Haftar who has launched a military campaign against rebels in the eastern city of Benghazi claimed the attack.
Police said Stephen McLaughlin and Timothy Murphy, both aged 34 and from Northern Ireland, were charged with conspiring to facilitate illegal entry into the United Kingdom.
Two civilians were killed and four others injured in a border clash between the two nuclear powers.
Local fishermen raised the alarm at dawn on Saturday morning and the coast guard managed to rescue 16 migrants who were still alive in the water, surrounded by bodies.
The return of the trucks may help ease the tension to some extent in time for talks in Ukraine's capital on Saturday between visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders over how to end the crisis in the ex-Soviet republic.
At least seventeen people were killed in the attack.
Prayuth did not mention his appointment as prime minister.
Germany's Vice Chancellor, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, said "A clever concept of federalisation seem to be the only practicable way."