A HUMAN rights activist from Stratford has been found not guilty following charges brought when he challenged a police officer in Calais.
Tom Ciotkowski was arrested and charged with contempt and assault after defending a fellow volunteer, allegedly pushed by a police officer, when delivering food to refugees in July.
The 30-year-old had taken a video during the incident which was used during the trial – which began over a month ago in Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France – along with footage recorded by other volunteers.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International – which has been highly critical of police operations in Calais – has campaigned for Mr Ciotkowski’s acquittal throughout his ordeal.
Spokesman Nicolas Krameyer said: “Whilst it is a relief that Tom’s ordeal is now over, he should not have been charged in the first place.
“Tom’s case is sadly emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that human rights defenders are facing at the hands of police in Calais for supporting migrants and refugees. His case also reflects a wider European trend of criminalizing acts of solidarity, as a way of discouraging others from standing up for human rights.
“Videos shown at trial demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that Tom did nothing wrong and that the actions of the police should be promptly and thoroughly investigated.”
It is understood the General Inspectorate of the National Police – the body which investigates complaints against police – has agreed to look into the incident and the conduct of three police officers, with the findings expected in December.
Following his acquittal, Mr Ciotkowski said: “I am extremely relieved and thankful that the judge has come to the right decision and my innocence has been proven.
“But I must say that I remain so very disappointed that I was put in this situation through false allegations in the first place and saddened that my family was put through such an ordeal.
“Although I forgive the officers for what was done to me, this cannot be allowed to happen again and a full independent investigation must be carried out. I will continue to do whatever I can as an individual to help those in need, such as refugees and the homeless.
“I hope that a lesson has been learned by the French authorities and that migrants and those providing them humanitarian assistance are in no way deserving of attack.
“The hostile environment for migrants and those who support them must come to an end and a real, compassionate solution to the situation must be found.”