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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK

World: Americas

NYPD on trial for brutality

Abner Louima is still recovering from his injuries, two years on

By Jane Hughes in New York

One of the most racially charged trials in New York's recent past is due to get under way on Tuesday - the case of four police officers accused of beating and torturing a Haitian immigrant.

Jane Hughes reports: Some people warn the atmosphere in New York could now reach boiling point
The case of Abner Louima provoked a nationwide outcry against alleged racism and brutality in the ranks of the New York police department.

He was arrested outside a nightclub in Brooklyn and said he was beaten and tortured by four officers, first in their patrol car and then at the police precinct where he was taken.

Almost two years later, Abner Louima is still recovering from his injuries. His bruised and battered face was shown on newspaper front pages across America at the time, and his case became so well known that the officers' lawyers argued they would never get a fair trial.

[ image: People also protested against the shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo]
People also protested against the shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo
It took the court over a month to find 12 jurors acceptable to both sides. The trial itself is expected to be long and bitter. If the officers are convicted, two face possible life imprisonment, the others up to 10 years behind bars.

The trial comes at a particularly tense time in New York, shortly after four other officers were charged with murder in the case of an African immigrant who died in a hail of 41 police bullets.

Critics say both incidents are a consequence of New York's tough crime-fighting tactics, which they consider to have given officers too much free rein.

The city's crime rate has been more than halved over the last few years, but many now say that has happened at too high a cost.

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