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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Amnesty 'ruining' taser's reputation

March 5, 2008
Agence France-Presse

THE French reseller of Taser stun guns, dogged by scandals over Taser-linked deaths, has taken Amnesty International to court for harming its reputation.

In May 2007, the French branch of Amnesty issued a statement claiming 220 US deaths had been linked to a Taser gun put up for auction on eBay. After a complaint from SMP Technologies, which has supplied Taser guns to the French army, police and gendarmerie since 2004, Amnesty said it had sent out the statement by mistake. An investigation showed the eBay item was a publicity gadget, not a Taser gun, Amnesty said.

SMP's lawyer, Catherine Hennequin, said Amnesty agreed to publish a clarification but has yet to do so eight months on, and has continued to claim deaths were linked to the weapon's use.

Amnesty's lawyer Simon Foreman said his client was mistaken about the eBay sale, but not about the "dangerous nature" of the Taser itself. He accused SMP of taking legal action "with the sole aim of intimidation".

Amnesty International says 300 people have died around the world after being zapped with a Taser and has called for the weapon's use to be suspended pending a full investigation.

The Taser packs a 50,000-volt punch that can paralyse targets from up to 10m away. The UN Committee against Torture ruled in November that its use constitutes "a form of torture" which can result in death.

The UN criticism followed a string of deaths in the US and Canada after police used Tasers to subdue people, including a Polish man who was filmed dying after being stunned at Vancouver airport.

A verdict in the French trial is due on March 11.

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