Appeal court asked to uphold sentences against police in Mitch Henriquez case

Statue of justice.
Statue of justice.

Appeal court judges have been asked to uphold six-month suspended sentences against two police officers who were held responsible for the death of Aruban national Mitch Henriquez.

The 42-year-old died a day after being pinned to the ground by five officers as he left a concert at the Zuiderpark in The Hague in July 2015. The city’s district court ruled in December 2017 that the choke hold used during his arrest was likely to have contributed to his death and found the two officers guilty of assault.

The officers appealed against their conviction, but at the appeal court in The Hague on Monday prosecutors said they had gone ‘way beyond the limit’. ‘The level of force used during the arrest was unjustified,’ said the advocate-general for the prosecution.

The original trial found that the prolonged use of the choke hold by one of the officers and the use of pepper spray by the other as he punched Henriquez in the face were unlawful. Officers said they had reacted to a claim by Henriquez that he was carrying a gun.

All five officers involved in the arrest were internally disciplined by the police but none has been dismissed. The prosecution says the two who were convicted should be barred from working as police officers for two years.

The appeal hearing is due to continue until next week and the court is expected to give its verdict in June.

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