Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Acquitted in France

On 30 November five Somali men were sentenced in France to between four and eight years for hi-jacking a French yacht in 2008. One man was acquitted. Prosecutors have appealed and that means that the acquitted man, the father of a now seven year-old boy, must stay in France in a state of limbo. The new court case could be up to nine months away.

On the day he was acquitted, the prison, where he had been remanded, called the court translator to come and collect him - there was no one else there to support him and he was scared to leave the prison. He was finally released at night into the streets of Paris with only his prison earnings, and with no papers, no work permit and knowing only a few words of French. He was lucky he had the translator to help him.

He had arrived, hooded and hand-cuffed, in France three years earlier. The only glimpses of France he had were from his cell window and during transportation to and from the court case. He says that he "guessed it was a country where there was light everywhere, a fertile country where it rained all the time." He said that on television he watched football and managed to learn a few words of French.

On release, three years after he was arrested, he still has the scars from the handcuffs and the memory that on that day the man next to him was shot  dead by the French troops.

Now he has applied for asylum and must wait for another courtcase.