HAARLEMMERMEER–The trial of two police officers involved in the death of Aruban tourist Mitch Henriquez (42) in The Hague two years ago is getting underway in the extra-secure judicial complex at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport after months of delays.
Henriquez died after being pinned to the ground by five police officers and bundled into a police van as he left the Parkpop music festival in The Hague in June 2015. Police said they reacted after Henriquez claimed he was carrying a gun.
His death triggered several nights of rioting in the Schilderswijk district of The Hague, an area with a large ethnic-minority population where distrust in the police is widespread among younger residents.
The trial was due to begin in April, but was delayed when lawyers for the two officers produced a pathologist’s report indicating Henriquez might have died of heart failure.
This contradicted the Netherlands Forensic Institute’s (NFI’s) conclusion that he died as a result of being held in a chokehold while on the ground.
The family’s lawyer Richard Korver said on Monday’s first day of hearings that he had obtained video images of Henriquez’s arrest that revealed previously unseen details of the incident. Korver said the pictures were clearer and showed Henriquez’s face turning purple before he passed out under restraint.
Bystanders could be heard shouting at police, “He’s not alive anymore” and “Disgraceful, you have killed him,” Korver claimed.
Lawyers for the officers said they would object to the footage being shown in Court if their clients could be identified. “We do not know if these tapes have been tampered with,” they added.
The Court rejected a request by Korver to postpone the hearing while judges decide whether to admit the pictures as evidence. A decision will be taken later in the week.
Henriquez’s family said in an interview in the Volkskrant newspaper on Monday that police had frustrated their efforts to find out what happened in the Zuiderpark two years ago.
“We want to know exactly what happened,” said his mother Maria (68). “That means having a proper talk with them. That is what we have asked for, through the police and their lawyers. But every time the answer is ‘no.’”
They wanted to have all five officers who were involved in restraining Henriquez put on trial, but the Prosecutor’s Office opted instead to charge two of them with assault with fatal consequences.
An attempt to force disclosure of the officers’ names so they could be called as witnesses in a civil hearing was also dismissed.
The prosecution is due to submit its demand next Monday
The two officers will give evidence from behind screens and have their voices distorted to protect their identity. All five were internally disciplined by the police force, but no one has been dismissed from service.