State to pay for jailing namesake of child rapist

The French state are ready to pay compensation to an innocent man, wrongly jailed after he was mistaken for a child rapist with the same name, his lawyer said on Monday. However the lawyer blasted the offer of €12,000 ($16,000) in damages as "ridiculous".

State to pay for jailing namesake of child rapist
A Frenchman was wrongly jailed after being mistaken for a child rapist with the same name. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Sadly innocent people being wrongly convicted in nothing new, but being locked up as a result of your name is thankfully rare.

But this is exactly what to Frenchman Mohamed Camara, who’s only crime was to share the same first and second names of a convicted child rapist, who was on the run.

Camara spent five months behind bars in 2001, until the state realised their blunder and released him. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in France.

According to his lawyer Frederic Berna on Monday, French authorities have finally recognised their error and reportedly made an offer of €12,000 compensation.

A figure that is insulting considering the gravity of the mistake, Berna believes.

“It’s crazy! For five months of totally unjustified detention it is a ridiculous amount,” Berna told AFP. The lawyer is claiming €180,000.

The calamity began in 2001 shortly after an international arrest warrant had been issued for Camara’s namesake, a child rapist, who had been earlier been convicted in absentia.

In July that year Camara was on a train from Paris to Brussels when he was picked up by authorities, who locked him up in Saint-Gilles prison in the Belgium capital believing they had caught their man.

Camara spent three months behind bars in Belgium before being extradited to France where another two months of his life were lost in a prison in Paris.

He was finally released on December 31, 2001, against the wish of prosecutors, on the grounds that the both the victims and the family of the real criminal had no idea who he was and did not recognise him, the lawyer Berna told AFP.

The problem for Camara though was that under French law, only people who are acquitted or have their case dismissed, can actually qualify for compensation.

However thankfully for him the Attorney General in Paris saw sense and ruled that despite the fact “that it is not a dismissal or an acquittal”, Camara’s case did provide grounds for compensation.

The Attorney General acknowledged the “significant” trauma that would have been caused by being locked up however he ruled that Camara’s psychological problems, that had developed since his incarceration, had nothing to do with his time spent in prison.

The Paris Court of Appeal is due to make a ruling on the amount of compensation Camara will receive, before the end of the year.

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