French police officers face probe over death of man put in chokehold

Family of Cédric Chouviat, who died of asphyxiation, say the manslaughter investigation is too lenient.

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Three French police officers have been charged* with manslaughter over the death of a delivery man who was pinned to the ground and put in a chokehold during an arrest in January, reports The Guardian.

Cédric Chouviat, 42, died in hospital two days after a heated exchange with the officers. He was held down while still wearing his scooter helmet for about 20 seconds, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Chouviat, who was of North African heritage, said: “I’m suffocating” seven times before his body went limp, according to a review of video footage of the incident by investigators.

Protests have taken place across France in recent weeks against alleged police brutality and racism. They were sparked by a report clearing the officers who arrested Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who died in police custody in 2016. One of the officers admitted the young man was pinned to the ground with their combined bodyweight.

The incident has gained resonance since mass protests erupted in the US over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who similarly died after being pinned to the ground by police as he said: “I can’t breathe.”

Chouviat was rushed to hospital in a critical condition but died of asphyxiation, with a fracture of the larynx, according to a prosecutor’s report.

Read more of this report from The Guardian.

See Mediapart's coverage of the case here.

* Editor's note: Under a change to the French legal system introduced in 1993, a magistrate can decide a suspect should be 'placed under investigation' (mis en examen), which is a status one step short of being charged (inculpé), if there is 'serious or concordant' evidence that they committed a crime. Some English-language media describe this status, peculiar to French criminal law, as that of being charged. In fact, it is only at the end of an investigation that a decision can be made to bring charges, in which case the accused is automatically sent for trial.

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