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French Government Takes Heat for Letting Prison Inmates Race Go-Karts With Guards



The backlash forced France’s justice minister to launch an investigation exonerating himself of involvement in the event.

Having a Blast in the Courtyard

Right-leaning French politicians clutched their pearls after a 25-minute video came to light last week showing inmates in the country’s second-largest prison racing go-karts, among other activities.

Although the original video was subsequently taken down, a shorter clip remained on YouTube depicting guards and prisoners competing against each other as water balloons were lobbed at passing go-karts.

Located south of Paris, the Fresnes prison is thought to house around 2,000 men and 100 women.

The July event, modeled after a French reality TV show similar to “Survivor,” included other games like tug of war, an obstacle course, and a quiz, with a swimming pool added to the mix.

Djibril Dramé, a local resident, organized the event. He has reportedly organized similar events in Fresnes for several years, including a sports competition between police and youth in June.

French media reported that the go-karting and other games had been sponsored by a halal fast food chain, Big M, and an online sports app, Omada.

Fresnes prison has previously held official sporting and cultural events, including a concert with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra in April.

Retribution or Rehabilitation?

“Our prisons are not holiday camps where inmates and guards become friends,” Éric Ciotti, a politician from the conservative party Les Républicains, said in a statement. “Where is the respect for the victims and their families who see these criminals having fun while they serve their sentences? Where is the fear of punishment?”

Outrage from the right wing intensified after it was reported that two of the inmates playing games such as tug of war had been convicted of rape and murder.

A French prisons official, however, told The Guardian none of them were convicted of such crimes, and that the event did not cost “a single penny.”

The prison’s governor Jimmy Delliste initially defended the event as a “fraternal occasion” and said in a statement it raised €1,700 for charity, but later admitted it was a mistake.

Much ire has also been directed at justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, whose ministry approved the event.

The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the “highest level” of the ministry approved both the event and the video’s release, but officials told the paper, “What we were presented with didn’t mention go-karting; it talked of sporting challenges, skipping ropes.”

“The fight against reoffending involves rehabilitating, but certainly doesn’t involve go-karting,” Dupond-Moretti said to reporters. “Had I known there’d be a go-karting contest, I would have imposed a very clear ban.”

He ordered an investigation into the matter, which produced a nine-page report Tuesday claiming that the justice ministry did grant permission for the event, but that it had not received specific details about go-karting.

“Many of our compatriots may have been shocked by what they saw in our prisons,” French President Immanuel Macron said during a government meeting Wednesday.

“The prison sentence has a meaning in society,” he said. “It is not the same as exclusion from everything, it is intended to allow for rehabilitation.”

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (Euronews)


95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home



The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.

A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.

Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.

At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.

They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.

The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.

She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.

Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.

After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.

NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.

Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters



London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”

The Public Order Act

A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.

The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”

It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.

“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”

An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests

During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated. 

“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed. 

“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”

Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”

“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote. 

When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should  do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police. 

For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.

“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages



The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.

As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.

On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.

An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.

Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.

“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.

Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.

More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.

Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.

Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.

Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.

Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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