British aid worker faces PRISON for violent brawl with Calais police over migrant camp

British aid worker faces PRISON for violent brawl with Calais police over migrant camp

The news comes after Amnesty International accused French police of harassing and intimidating people offering aid to migrants in Calais in a bid to hamper their relief efforts. Tom Ciotkowski, a charity worker from Stratford upon Avon, is facing contempt and assault charges for allegedly coming to blows with Laurent Mary, a 52-year-old French riot police officer, during a migrant camp clearance operation in July 2018. The police officer denounced Mr Ciotkowski’s “vehement” behaviour towards him and his colleagues, adding the youth had “pushed him” and called him a “b*tch-b****rd” after he asked to see his ID. Mr Mary says he pushed the activist back in self-defence, and that Mr Ciotkowski fell backwards over a concrete barrier separating the pavement from the road, dragging another policeman down with him.

Mr Ciotkowski was then arrested and held in police custody for 36 hours, according to rights group Amnesty International.

The British youth has rejected this account and filed a rival complaint against the Calais police officers for assault and slander. He recorded the encounter, which was used as evidence during Wednesday’s trial.

He says the men were ID-checking volunteers trying to hand out food to migrants, at which point Mr Mary approached him and another volunteer, whom he reportedly hit with a baton.

His sentence will be delivered next week, on June 20. The charges against him carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to €7,500 (£6,500).

Local prosecutors, however, have shown leniency by calling for a suspended sentence. They have also asked the IGPN, the body that investigates police abuses, to investigate the incident.

Amnesty’s senior campaigner on migration, Maria Serrano, said the Ciotkowski case was “emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that human rights defenders supporting migrants and refugees face at the hands of police in Calais”.

“His case also reflects a wider European trend of criminalising acts of solidarity, as a way of discouraging others from standing up for human rights. Efforts by individuals and NGOs to help people in need should be lauded, defended and celebrated rather than criminalised,” she said.

Mr Ciotkowski’s trial comes just one week after Amnesty published a report in which it accused French authorities of harassing people helping migrants in the north of France in a deliberate attempt to discourage them from pursuing their work and “curtail acts of solidarity”.

“French authorities have harassed, intimidated and even violently assaulted people offering humanitarian aid and other support,” the report read.

In October 2016, France demolished the sprawling “Jungle” migrant camp on the outskirts of Calais, which at its peak was home to roughly 10,000 people hoping to get into Britain.

The migrants were relocated to shelters dotted around the country but activists have warned people have since returned to the area and are living in sordid conditions.

More than 1,200 people are living in rundown tent camps in and around Calais, according to Amnesty.

The UK-bound migrants have no regular access to food, water, sanitation, shelter or legal assistance and are subject to evictions, harassment and violence at the hands of the police, Amnesty added.

The rights group also said that pro-migrant activists have experienced insomnia, stress and anxiety and that acts of intimidation, threats of arrest and abuse have become “part and parcel of their daily work”.

“It is essential that the rights of refugees and migrants are respected,” the report concluded.

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