France's interior minister is suing a police officer who claimed the minister's office pressed her to falsify a report on the security presence at the Nice Bastille Day celebrations that turned into a massacre. Bernard Cazeneuve's office vowed ...and more »
Sunday 24 July 2016 18.21Â BST
Last modified on Sunday 24 July 2016 22.00Â BST
Franceâ€™s interior minister is suing a police officer who claimed the ministerâ€™s office pressed her to falsify a report on the security presence at the Nice Bastille Day celebrations that turned into a massacre.
Bernard Cazeneuveâ€™s office vowed â€œtransparency and truthâ€ to put an end to what it described as â€œuseless speculationâ€ over how Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was able to plough a heavy goods vehicle at 55mph (90kph) through crowds on the Promenade des Anglais on 14 July.
The massacre, for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility, left 84 people dead and hundreds more in hospital.
Sandra Bertin, a municipal police officer who was on duty in charge of a CCTV control room, told the Journal du Dimanche that local police reported the lorry at 10.33pm as it began its carnage.
â€œIt was going at 90km/h without lights â€¦ It dodged the municipal police barrier. The team couldnâ€™t stop it. You canâ€™t burst the tyres of a 19-tonner with a revolver. Then other municipal police in plainclothes in the crowd were confronted with it,â€ she said.
â€œIf theyâ€™d been armed like our national police colleagues have demanded, they could have stopped it. Finally the lorry came to the national police who shot and neutralised it.â€
In the interview published on Sunday, Bertin claimed that the following day the interior ministerâ€™s office sent a commissioner from the CSU (Centre for Urban Supervision) who put her on the phone to the ministry.
She claimed she was asked by a â€œhurried personâ€ to state the positions of municipal police officers in Nice, the barriers in place and the siting of national police officers.
â€œI told her I would only write what I had seen. Perhaps the national police were there, but I didnâ€™t see them on the cameras,â€ Bertin said.
She added that the person on the phone from the ministry asked her to email her report in a â€œmodifiable form â€¦ so they didnâ€™t have to type it all out againâ€.
Bertin said: â€œI was harassed for an hour. I was ordered to include the specific positions of the national police, who I hadnâ€™t seen on the screens.â€
Bertin, who is secretary general of a Nice public servants union, said she eventually sent two copies of her report, â€œone version in a non-changeable PDF, the other modifiable. Then, several days later, the antiterrorist branch ordered me to erase the film of six cameras that I mentioned in my report that had captured the massacre â€¦ to prevent them being seen by the public.â€ Nice officials have refused to destroy the tapes.
The Paris public prosecutor FranÃ§ois Molins, whose office is overseeing the investigation, said the CSU representatives were sent to the Nice municipal police with the sole aim of watching the CCTV to establish the truckâ€™s route.
â€œThe only purpose was to help us reach the truth in the context of a legal inquiry,â€ Molins said.
Cazeneuve inisted the CSU officer sent to speak to Bertin was not sent by his interior ministry and said he was suing for defamation after â€œserious accusationsâ€ against him.
â€œIt will be very useful if Madame Sandra Bertin could be questioned by the investigators and could give them the names and positions of the people she is accusing, the emails she is talking about and their contents,â€ Cazeneuve said in a statement.
â€œUnworthy accusations are part of the virulent polemic that certain elected representatives in Nice have wanted to encourage and feed every day since the terrible July 14 attack,â€ he added.
Cazeneuveâ€™s angry riposte was directed specifically at the Nice mayor, Christian Estrosi, of the opposition centre-right Les RÃ©publicains party, who has claimed the Bastille Day firework celebrations were insufficiently policed, given that the country has been under a state of emergency since the series of shootings and bombings in Paris in November.
The two politicians have spent the last two weeks batting claims and counter-claims at each other.
Cazeneuve announced last week there would be an internal police report on how the forces prepared and reacted that would be carried out with a view to â€œtransparency and truthâ€.
â€œThis administrative inquiry â€“ of the policeâ€™s police â€“ will allow us to establish the facts about the cover as opposed to continuing useless arguments,â€ Cazeneuve added.
Four men and a woman are under investigation for alleged complicity in the attack. Police have not yet established a direct link with Isis.
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