02/22/2013 12:46 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Video of police officers punching, kicking robbery suspect in Quebec causes stir

MONTREAL - An act of alleged police brutality in Quebec is attracting international attention after it was caught in part on surveillance video.

Four officers were seen kicking and punching a man early this month as he lay face down on the ground in a snowy parking lot in Trois-Rivieres.

Footage of the violent arrest of the 19-year-old was played in a Quebec court during his bail hearing Thursday.

Alexis Vadeboncoeur is charged with armed robbery. He is accused of entering a Trois-Rivieres pharmacy on Feb. 2 wearing a mask and armed with a handgun.

Local police said when the incident happened that the suspect led officers on a brief chase before being cornered in a parking lot in the town halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.

The video shows Vadeboncoeur surrendering willingly, only to be kicked and punched by officers as he lies on the ground with his arms spread wide. He claimed in court on Thursday to have been struck in the head and genitals. The incident on tape lasts for about 30 seconds.

The arrest images were captured by a surveillance camera for a post-secondary institution and spread rapidly online. Even U.S. all-news network CNN picked up the video Friday.

It's just the most recent incident of alleged police brutality in Quebec.

Law-enforcement officials were soundly criticized for their handling of certain student protests in 2012, while the heavy-handed actions of one Montreal police officer known by her badge number, 728, have also been heavily scrutinized.

Vadeboncoeur's lawyer, Rene Duval, has said he may seek to sue the Trois-Rivieres police officers in civil court.

"It's scandalous what has happened here," Duval said. "People who manifestly lied in their report, personally I don't think it's credible evidence and I am asking for my client to get bail so he can go to a treatment centre to deal with an addiction problem."

The hearing for his client resumes March 19, when he'll find out if he can regain his freedom.

The four officers have had their guns taken away and are currently suspended with pay from the municipal police.

A provincial police investigation has been launched at the request of the Trois-Rivieres police chief.

The suspensions came about 10 days after the arrest, when discrepancies emerged between the arrest report filed by officers and other information sent from a third party.

Local police wouldn't comment on the case Friday, but a spokesman for the city of Trois-Rivieres said the municipality doesn't condone the police behaviour.

"We don't approve the actions of the police officers caught on tape,'' said Yvan Toutant. "It's not in the current practices of police officers here in Trois-Rivieres."

"We'll wait for conclusions of the provincial police investigation but the mayor (Yves Levesque) also wants everyone to know he still has confidence in the police force."

Meanwhile, Quebec Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron told Radio-Canada on Friday that violence is unacceptable in Quebec. He wouldn't comment on the video itself but agreed with the suspensions.

A spokeswoman for Bergeron told The Canadian Press by text message the minister would not comment further.

In Quebec, it is customary for a different police force to investigate when someone is hurt during an arrest.