French athlete Barber fined for biting police

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The Independent Online

A debate about the aggressive behaviour of the French police was fuelled today by the conviction of the former athletics champion, Eunice Barber, for resisting arrest two years ago.

Mme Barber, 34, was fined €5,000 for “outrage” and “rebellion” - in other words resisting and insulting police officers - after a relatively trivial traffic offence near the Stade de France, north of Paris.

She admitted in a court hearing last month that she had bitten two officers. She said that she was forced to do so to “protect” her body which she described as her “tool of work”.

Mme Barber, a former world long jump and hepathlon champion, accused the police officers of making racist remarks and using excessive violence to handcuff her after she was stopped while driving into a blocked-off street.

Her lawyer, Emmnuelle Daoud, said that she would appeal against the conviction and sentence announced today. She said the athlete was "not guilty but is only a victim in this affair."

Eunice Barber was born in Sierra Leone but became a French citizen in 1999. At her hearing last month, she accused a female police officer of calling her a “dirty black” and other officers of calling her “a cannibal.” The woman officer said that Mme Barber had called her “a dirty white woman”.

The judgement coincides with a political row in France over the allegedly brutal arrest of a senior newspaper executive, Vittorio de Filippis of Libération, for questioning on a minor libel accusation.

A pressure group campaigning for the abolition of the offence of “outrage” against the police said that the behaviour of officers in both cases was typical of what ordinary citizens suffered every day.

Jean-Jacques Reboux said that Mme Barber was a victim of “racist” officers. “We are only hearing about this because Eunice Barber's name is known," he said. "The same is true with De Filippis. But this kind of thing happens all over the country every day.”