France: three police officers charged with manslaughter for death by suffocation

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On Thursday, three French police officers were charged with manslaughter for the death of a deliveryman who died after being pinned to the ground by police officers arrested in January.The victim’s family, Cédric Chouviat, said the charges against three of the police were too lenient.

Chouviat, 42, died in hospital two days after a heated exchange with police officers who detained him, still wearing his scooter helmet, for about 20 seconds after his arrest near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Investigators who watched video footage of the incident discovered that Chouviat, of North African descent, said “I am suffocating” seven times before his body became limp.

Transported to hospital in critical condition, Chouviat died of suffocation with a “broken larynx” according to a report by the prosecutor.

A fourth police officer, who videotaped the arrest, is under investigation but has not been charged.

Chouviat’s family said Thursday that a charge of manslaughter was too lenient “for the violence and aggression of the police” as shown by video footage captured by witnesses.

“Voluntary blows resulted in the death of Cédric Chouviat,” the family said in a statement. A charge of “willful violence” could result in a higher penalty than manslaughter under French law.

The family asked that the restraint techniques used on Chouviat – a strangulation and a position where a person is forced to fall to the ground while pressure is placed on his chest – should be prohibited.

Former interior minister Christophe Castaner announced a choking ban in June but backed off after a brutal reaction from the police.

She intervened after several mass demonstrations against racism which took place all over France after the assassination by the police of the African American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd died after an officer held him on the ground with a knee around his neck for more than eight minutes despite Floyd’s plea that he could not breathe.

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