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British man facing up to five years in prison for recording police abuse against refugees in Calais

The Independent logo The Independent 14/5/2019 May Bulman
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A British man is facing up to five years in prison for documenting police abuse of refugees in Calais.

Tom Ciotkowski, from Stratford upon Avon, was charged with contempt and assault in the region after he recorded and challenged a French police officer who had reportedly pushed another volunteer.

The 30-year-old, whose trial starts tomorrow at the Tribunal de Boulogne-sur-Mer in France, could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €7,500 (£6,500).

Human rights group Amnesty International has called for all charges against Mr Ciotkowski to be dropped, branding them “unjust” and “emblematic” of harassment and intimidation faced by volunteers in northern France.

According to Amnesty, Mr Ciotkowski raised concerns about the behaviour of French riot police who were ID-checking volunteers trying to distribute food refugees, at which point an officer approached him and another female volunteer, who he hit with a baton.

When he asked the officer for his identification number, the officer reportedly pushed him and he fell backwards over a concrete barrier separating the pavement from the road.

Mr Ciotkowski was then arrested, put in custody for 36 hours and charged with contempt and assault, according to the campaign group.

Maria Serrano, Amnesty's senior campaigner on migration, said the 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".

He added: "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.

"The outrageous charges against Mr Ciotkowski must be dropped – we need courageous, compassionate people like him more than ever.”

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It comes after charities told The Independent that refugees in Calais were being pushed out of visible areas and further into the “margins of society” due to ramped-up security measures introduced as part of the UK and France’s response to a rise in migrant boat crossings last year.

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