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POLICE brutality has come under the spotlight in France again after footage emerged of a delivery driver pleading for his life as he struggled for breath while being restrained following a traffic stop.
Cedric Chouviat was heard repeatedly shouting “I’m suffocating” and telling officers he couldn’t breathe at least seven times in 22 seconds after he was pulled over in the capital Paris in January.
The father-of-five died two days later in hospital after falling into a coma. A coroner ruled the cause of his death as asphyxia and a broken larynx.
None of the four officers involved in the incident have been suspended but last week they were taken into custody and interviewed over the incident as part of judicial investigations. Charges could be brought in the coming weeks.
Initial reports from their lawyer said that Mr Chouviat was pulled over because he was on his mobile phone and had a dirty licence plate.
Video footage shows him being pinned face down to the ground while appealing for his life.
His family have accused police of unjustified violence. Witnesses say that officers held Mr Chouviat in a chokehold, a dangerous and much-criticised restraint technique.
A recent decision by the French government to ban its use was overturned after police unions held demonstrations in support of their right to use the violent act on citizens.
Lawyers for the family have asked for the incident to be reclassified as “willful violence resulting in death.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the reports raised “legitimate questions, to which answers should be given in all transparency” and promised the appropriate action would be taken following investigations.
Last week the Morning Star reported on an incident in which Paris police smashed a nurse’s head against a tree repeatedly before dragging her into custody by her hair during a protest by health workers.
Nearly 300 investigations were opened into police violence last year during the yellow-vest anti-government protests.
The interior ministry admitted in May 2019 that 2,448 protesters had been injured during the demonstrations. It is believed that at least 24 people were blinded in an eye and 283 sustained head injuries as police used rubber bullets and other weapons to disperse crowds.
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