Revealed: how French state hid truth about dam protest death for two days

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The French state knew almost immediately what caused the death of 21-year-old student Rémi Fraisse at an eco-protest on October 26th, but sought to hide the facts for 48 hours. That is the clear implication of the initial findings of the independent judicial investigation into Fraisse's death at the Sivens dam protest in south-west France, details of which have been seen by Mediapart. These preliminary findings, backed by witness statements from gendarmes at the site, show that the forces of law and order were aware straight away that the botany student had died directly as a result of an 'offensive' grenade thrown by one of them. In an emotional statement the student's family has formally asked President François Hollande to explain why the government took two days to recognise what happened, and why a grenade packed with explosives was thrown at Rémi in the first place.

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The upper echelons of the French state knew within hours what had caused the death of botany student Rémi Fraisse at an eco-protest in the early hours of October 26th but concealed the truth for up to two days, Mediapart can reveal. Preliminary details of the judicial investigation into the death at Sivens dam in south-west France, of which Mediapart has been made aware, have revealed that gendarmes using night-vision binoculars saw the 21-year-old fall to the ground immediately after an 'offensive' grenade had been thrown at a group of four or five young protesters.

A group of gendarmes then set out, at around 2am, to retrieve the student and by 4am a preliminary examination of his body had been carried out at the nearby town of Albi, which showed that he had been killed as the result of an explosion. Meanwhile the circumstances of Rémi Fraisse's death had already been passed up the chain of command from the gendarmes on the front line to their commanding officer on the spot, with the local prefect, prosecutor and responsible ministers – for justice and the interior – then duly informed. Yet despite senior figures in the state having been made aware of virtually all the salient facts of the tragedy on Sunday morning, ministers chose either to feign ignorance or downplay the incident for two days.