Two cops in court over Aruban man's death in custody

Two Hague police officers are in the high security court at Schiphol on Monday for a pro-forma hearing in the case around the death of Aruban man Mitch Henriquez shortly after his arrest in 2015. They are facing charges of aggravated assault resulting in death, but may eventually be convicted of culpable homicide, AD reports.

Even though this is just a pro-forma hearing, it is the official start of the criminal trial against the two police officers. The substantive trial is expected to start in April. So far the identity of the two involved officers is kept secret. In court on Monday they sat behind a screen and their voices were distorted. Henriquez' family is at the trial.

The family's lawyer wants to postpone the court case. The family filed an Article 12 procedure in an effort to have three other police officers involved in the incident also prosecuted. The lawyer wants the trial against the officers to start only after this Article 12 procedure was handled, expected to be sometime in March. 

But the court decided not to postpone the trial. "Otherwise it will take years and the social importance is too great in this notorious case", the court said.

Mitch Henriquez (42) was arrested at a music festival in Zuiderpark in The Hague at the end of June 2015. He died a day after his arrest. An autopsy showed that he likely suffocated due to a chokehold the arresting officers used on him.

Five police officers were involved in the fatal arrest. The one who used the chokehold and one who used pepper spray and punched Henriquez in the face are now being prosecuted. The other three came off with only disciplinary actions taken by their employer.