French court convicts three policemen over 2015 death of Black man

A French court on Tuesday found three police officers guilty of manslaughter over the death of a Black man in Paris in 2015 and sentenced each to a 15-month suspended jail term, a judge said.

Amadou Koume died after he was pinned to the ground by officers in a bar, put in a chokehold and subsequently left on his front, his hands cuffed behind his back, for more than six minutes.

Koume, whose name has become a protest slogan against police violence in some communities, died as the result of a slow “mechanical asphyxia” according to a medical expert, the court heard during the trial.

“To hear the word ‘guilty’ is satisfying, but the sentence is relatively lenient,” Eddy Arneton, a lawyer for the Koume family, told reporters afterwards.

The prosecutor had sought a one-year suspended sentence, deeming that necessary and proportionate force had been used to immobilise Koume but that the officers were negligent in leaving him on his front.

Rights groups say accusations of brutal, racist treatment of residents of often immigrant background by French police remain largely unaddressed, in particular in deprived city suburbs.

In 2020, as public anger swelled over race discrimination following the death of George Floyd after being detained by police in the United States, the French government promised “zero tolerance” for racism within law enforcement agencies.

Police unions responded by accusing the government of scapegoating it for deep-rooted divisions in French society.

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