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Swiss Appeals Court Upholds Police Officers’ Acquittal in Death of Nigerian

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Amadasun. Photograph: Amadasun family.

A Swiss appeals court has upheld the acquittal of six police officers involved in the controversial death of Mike Ben Peter, a Nigerian man whose case drew parallels to the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

The decision, echoing a lower court’s ruling from last year, has sparked widespread demonstrations and renewed discussions about justice and police accountability in Switzerland.

Ben Peter, aged 39, died following a violent encounter with police near Lausanne railway station in early 2018.

The incident unfolded when he resisted a drug search, resulting in a physical altercation where he was restrained on the ground. He later died in the hospital after suffering a heart attack.

Despite calls for accountability and allegations of excessive force, the Lausanne court initially acquitted the officers of negligent homicide in June last year.

The recent ruling by the cantonal appeals court in Renens reaffirmed this decision, also clearing the officers of additional charges of abusing their authority.

The judges cited forensic evidence that they deemed inconclusive regarding the exact cause of Ben Peter’s death, stating that it resulted from “multiple factors” rather than solely from police intervention.

They emphasised that Ben Peter had resisted arrest with “fierce resistance,” justifying the officers’ actions as “justified, legitimate and proportionate.”

The court ruled that “The question of systemic racism is not pertinent in judging this matter.

“The cause of his death is due to multiple factors. Ben Peter never gave up struggling… with fierce resistance to his arrest.

“We cannot blame the police for anything. The arrest was justified, legitimate and proportionate.”

Outside the courtroom, emotions ran high as protesters gathered to voice their outrage. Chants of “Black lives matter!”, “Justice for Mike,” and accusations of “racist justice” filled the air.

Demonstrators expressed disbelief and frustration at the court’s decision, seeing it as a failure of justice and accountability in the face of police violence.

Speaking to reporters, Bridget Efe, Ben Peter’s widow, vowed to continue seeking justice for her late husband, condemning the court’s decision and expressing her determination to hold the officers accountable.

She accused the police of taking her husband’s life unjustly and criticized what she perceived as a lack of repercussions for their actions.

While Ben Peter’s family and supporters contemplate their next steps, including the possibility of appealing to higher federal courts, the case has reignited debates about systemic racism and police conduct in Switzerland.

Critics argue that the verdict reflects a pattern where police are perceived to act with impunity, particularly in cases involving racial minorities.

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