Roma boy left unconscious after being savagely beaten and tortured during vigilante attack in Paris suburb

President Hollande condemns 'unspeakable' treatment of suspected thief that highlights racial tension in poor areas of the city


President François Hollande has expressed outrage after a vigilante gang savagely beat and tortured a teenage Roma immigrant in a northern suburb of Paris.

The 16-year old was left for dead in a supermarket trolley with multiple skull fractures after being kidnapped from a Roma camp by a gang of around 20 youths from a nearby, multi-racial council estate who believed he was a burglar.

It is believed that the Roma teenager, named only as Darius, was arrested for burglary several times in the last two weeks at Pierrefitte, in Seine-Saint-Denis, just north of Paris.

President Hollande condemned “unspeakable and unjustifiable actions which strike against all the principles on which our Republic is founded”. The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said that only the police and the justice system had the right to investigate and punish crimes.

“Everything possible will be done to bring the culprits to justice,” he said.

The incident occurred last Friday but provoked government comments only today. The slow reaction may be explained by the complex racial implications of the attack.

Relations between Roma immigrants and the majority white population in France are poor. Relations between Roma and people of North African and African origin in suburban housing estates are often worse.

Many of the estimated 20,000 Roma in France live in makeshift encampments on the edges of cities, close to council estates which have severe social and economic problems of their own. “It is an explosive situation which most well-off French people don’t know anything about,” one senior social worker said. “There is much talk of white or right-wing opposition to the presence of the Roma. The tensions between Roma camps and the multi-racial housing estates are often far worse.”

Eye-witnesses said that on Friday evening a group of around 20 masked youths, wearing knuckle-dusters and carrying clubs, invaded the Roma camp where Darius lived with his family. Roma who tried to intervene were attacked. Darius was dragged away. He was found hours later by passers-by unconscious in a supermarket trolley near the Cite des Poètes, a troubled housing estate. He had several skull fractures and had been bruises and abrasions all over his body.

He was taken to the Delafontaine hospital in Saint Denis and placed in artificial coma. His life was still said to be in danger.

Police told the newspaper Le Parisien that his kidnappers had called his family from his mobile telephone and demanded a €15,000 (£12,000) ransom. His parents assumed that he had been killed, police sources said. It was two days before they discovered that he was seriously ill in hospital.

The fact that the gang had entered the Roma camp looking for an individual has persuaded investigators that this was probably a vigilante attack or intended as a brutal warning.“At this stage, it is too early to make a direct link between burglaries on the estate and this attack,” police said. “Investigations are continuing.”

The Roma camp where Darius and his family lived, on the edge of the A1 motorway from Paris to the north, was dismantled by its inhabitants over the weekend.

Louis Aliot, the vice president of the far-right Front National – and romantic partner of the party’s president, Marine Le Pen – was among politicians who condemned the attack. He went on, however, to say that it was not surprising that “citizens defend themselves”  when they have the impression that the state “fails to protect them”.

Around 20,000 Roma migrants, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, are believed to live in France. The present Socialist government has continued the policy, started under President Nicolas Sarkozy, of dismantling camps and deporting migrants if they have no job.

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