Two Dutch police get suspended jail terms in Aruba man's death


The Hague (AFP)

A Dutch court Thursday sentenced two police officers to a six-month suspended jail term for the 2015 death of a man from Aruba, who suffocated after being arrested at a music festival.

Mitch Henriquez, 42, died after being wrestled to the ground and put in a chokehold when he resisted arrest at the event in The Hague in June 2015.

Judges in The Hague found Thursday that the "use of force by police went too far."

"A police officer must intervene in situations like this, but there are limits to the use of police force," the judges said in their ruling.

They said one of the officers had grabbed Henriquez around the neck, while the other hit him in the face and used pepper spray on him.

The chokehold "was too powerful and lasted too long", the judges said, adding that even though five officers were needed to get Henriquez under control, the subsequent use of pepper spray "also went too far."

Henriquez died while on his visit to relatives in the Netherlands from the Caribbean Dutch island of Aruba. The incident sparked almost a week of anti-police protests in The Hague, leading to some 200 arrests.

Police said at the time they had arrested Henriquez after he claimed to have a weapon. He resisted arrest and became unwell on the way to the police station, they said.

But mobile phone footage taken by witnesses showed several police officers restraining and sitting on Henriquez, before his limp body was put in a police vehicle.

The Dutch ANP news agency said the two officers were suspended from duty during the trial, but the police chief says they will now be re-integrated into the force.

Aruba, a tiny island lying just off Venezuela in the Caribbean, is a Dutch territory, and many people living in The Netherlands have links to it.