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France: Three police officers charged with manslaughter over chokehold death

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Doria Chouviat, wife of Cedric Chouviat, talks to the Associated Press in Paris, Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
Doria Chouviat, wife of Cedric Chouviat, talks to the Associated Press in Paris, Tuesday, June 23, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Turnbull
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Three French police members were charged with manslaughter on Thursday over the death of a delivery man who died after being pinned to the floor by arresting officers in January.

The family of the victim, Cédric Chouviat, said the charges laid against three of the officers, were too lenient.

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

Investigators who reviewed video footage of the incident found that Chouviat, of North African origin, said "I'm suffocating" seven times before his body went limp.

Rushed to the hospital in a critical condition, Chouviat died of asphyxiation with a "fracture of the larynx" according to a prosecutor's report.

A fourth police officer, who filmed 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 aggressiveness of police officers" as seen in video footage captured by witnesses.

"Voluntary blows led to the death of Cédric Chouviat," the family said in a statement. A charge of "voluntary violence" could carry a higher penalty than manslaughter under French law.

The family has asked that the restraint techniques used on Chouviat — a chokehold and a position where a person is forced down on the ground while pressure is applied to their torso — be banned.

Former Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a ban on chokehold in June but backtracked after a backlash by police.

It came after several mass anti-racism protests were held across France following the police killing of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd died after an officer held him down on the floor with a knee to the neck for more than eight minutes despite Floyd's plea that he could not breathe.