French officers have been found guilty of a fatal initiation rite

On Thursday, a French court handed down suspended prison sentences to three soldiers convicted in the case of drowning a trainee officer during preparatory rituals at a prestigious military academy in the country.

Jalal Hami, 24, drowned at night on October 29, 2012, while crossing a swamp as part of an exercise designed to teach the traditions of Saint-Cyr Officer School to new recruits.

A total of seven soldiers, including a general, were tried for manslaughter.

A court in Rennes, a city in the western Brittany region of France near the Saint-Cyr Academy, ruled that an army captain, commanding officer, and soldier have since left the army for suspended periods of six to eight months.

Four other defendants, including the general in charge of training at Saint-Cyr at the time, were acquitted of the charges.

Hami’s brother Rashid, who accused his sophomores of committing ritual intimidation of anarchy, angrily responded to the verdict.

He said, “I betrayed my brother again.”

On the night of Hami’s death, the new recruits were asked to swim across a swamp 43 meters (47 yards) burdened by their helmets in 9 ° C (48 ° F) of water.

The aim of the exercise was to simulate a landing on the beach.

To Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” – made famous in the war movie Apocalypse Now – the recruits jumped into the cold water. Soon many of them struggled and went downhill, gasping for air and catching others.

The organizers threw life belts to help them, but it was too late for Jalal Hami, who was reported missing.

An hour after alerting the firefighters, they found his body at 2:35 am near the swamp bank.

During the trial, the prosecutor criticized “insanity” for starting rituals fueled by “uncontrolled testosterone” and asked the court to grant six of the defendants suspended periods of up to two years.

But the attorney general has called for General Francis Chanson to be acquitted.

Chanson’s lawyer, William Benno, said that while the events were “tragic,” his client could not be held criminally responsible “because he did not know what actually happened on the ground.”

Rachid Hami, left, Jalal Hami’s brother, looks at his lawyer, Jean-Guillaume Le Mintier, during a hearing in the court of Rennes, western France, on January 14, 2021 [Damien Meyer/AFP]

Jalal Hami came to France in 1992 with his mother and siblings, fleeing the Algerian civil war.

For years Hami dreamed of admission to Saint-Cyr, which was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

Hami received a diploma from the University of Sciences Po, studied Mandarin and excelled in sports, qualifications that allowed him to enter Officer School directly as a third-year trainee.

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