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Four drug traffickers in Marseille tried for torturing a child "freelance" dealer

A young person is released after control by a policemen at the "Paternelle" neighborhood in the northern district of Marseille on March 31.
A young person is released after control by a policemen at the "Paternelle" neighborhood in the northern district of Marseille on March 31. Copyright CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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"They treated me worse than an animal," said the young man who was beaten, burnt, and forced to snort cocaine by drug traffickers.


Four people are on trial from Friday at the Aix-en-Provence assizes for the lynching of a young drug seller in August 2019 in Marseille. 

The teenager was kidnapped and tortured overnight with some parts of his body burnt with a blowtorch. 

Independent drug seller 16-year-old Mathieu – not his real name – was attacked by a network of organised drug dealers in Marseille who claim monopoly over all the illicit trade in the region. 

The hearings will highlight the silence imposed by traffickers on the city's entire 3rd Arrondissement, one of the most impoverished in Marseille.

In November 2022, one of Mathieu's torturers, trialled by the juvenile court, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for kidnapping and sequestration accompanied by torture and barbaric acts. Mathieu had identified him as the one who had forced him to take cocaine.

Only 1 of the 4 accused admitted to the beatings but claimed to have "nothing to do with what happened afterwards". All 4 face life imprisonment.

'They treated me like an animal'

Mathieu started to sell drugs after leaving the Child Welfare home in hopes of earning €500 a day in 2019, days before the lynching occurred. He was recruited into the drug dealers' network after arriving in the area of Le Micocouliers, one of the many drug sales points in the city.

The police arrested him shortly after, but Mathieu managed to hide 15 grams of cocaine and 10 bars of hash under a tree. He was placed by a youth court in a home pending his return to Chartres, accompanied by an educator, but he ran away a few days later.

He recovered the hidden drugs and tried to resell them as a "freelancer" -without the authorisation of those responsible for this traffic hotspot in Marseille.

Denounced by a young watchman, he was immediately surrounded and beaten with fists and iron bars and then taken to an abandoned basement, where the drug dealing network's members lived.

"They treated me worse than an animal," said Mathieu, who was then completely naked, tied to a chair with an electric cable, then beaten and burned forty times with a cigarette. "In the basement, there were a lot of people, they hit me, they made me snort coke."

In the middle of the night, while he was blindfolded, two "grown-ups" told him that he was "going to die", inducing a panic that almost led to Mathieu taking his own life. 

"They burned my genitals. I think it was a blowtorch because I was blindfolded, I felt air and a big fire. I screamed in pain", he said. He admitted attempting suicide by choking on the rag that his jailers had stuffed into his mouth to escape the unbearable pain. 

The verdict is expected on Friday, September 15.

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