France’s justice minister yesterday said mobile phones would be jammed in all prisons, as she resisted demands for her resignation following the dramatic helicopter escape of France’s most notorious gangster.
“It goes without saying that I am entirely responsible for what happens in my administration, but I do not personally make these decisions,” Nicole Belloubet told RTL radio.
The government has been hugely embarrassed by Redoine Faïd’s second escape in five years.
Thousands of police have been hunting for the fugitive, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
Ms Belloubet rejected calls by far-Right politicians to resign, saying: “It’s not really the right time.”
She said mobile phones, often used illicitly by convicts, would be jammed in French prisons from October.
Faïd’s accomplices seized a helicopter at gunpoint and forced the pilot to land in a prison yard before cutting through doors.
Armed with assault rifles, they forced their way into the prison using smoke bombs.
Stéphane Buy, the pilot, told RTL radio that he was hit with a pistol butt and the assailants threatened his family to force him to cooperate.
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He said his terrifying ordeal began when two men contacted him to learn how to pilot a helicopter. They had a first lesson that went without incident, and the pair, one aged about 50 and the other in his 20s, approached him again for a second session on Sunday.
When they arrived at the flying club where he worked near Paris, they insisted on taking a five-seat helicopter dating from the 1960s, angrily rejecting the four-seater he was planning to use.
“That’s when it all went wrong,” Mr Buy said. “They attacked me and forced me to take that helicopter. They said my family was in danger, that someone was outside my house.”
He said the two men who hijacked the helicopter seemed to know that he was a highly experienced and proficient pilot.
Mr Buy said he was briefly knocked unconscious minutes before being compelled to pilot the helicopter.
Faïd, 46, who masterminded a robbery in which a policewoman was killed, was last seen in CCTV footage, sitting in the passenger seat of a white van driving out of a shopping centre in a Paris suburb on Sunday.
The vehicle was later found burned.