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Swiss police officers charged with negligent homicide over death of deportee

Three police officers from canton Bern and a doctor have been charged with homicide through negligence over the death of a Palestinian man last year. The man suffocated while being deported to Egypt.

The Buelach district attorney's office, in canton Zurich, said it was demanding five-month, suspended sentences against the three officers and the doctor who declared the victim, Khaled Abuzarifeh, fit to travel.

Abuzarifeh died on March 3, 1999, in the elevator of an office building at Zurich airport. The officers, who were taking Abuzarifeh to a flight to Cairo, reportedly gagged the 27-year-old, to keep him from crying out.

Doctors at Zurich University later discovered that he suffered from a defect of the right nasal cavity and that the gag prevented him from breathing properly.

Abuzarifeh had been expelled from Switzerland for five years after being found guilty of drug trafficking. A previous attempt to deport the Palestinian failed in January 1999, shortly before his scheduled departure.

Since the incident, the Bernese police have refrained from applying adhesive tape on the mouths of difficult deportation candidates.

swissinfo with agencies

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