Expat British cyclist 'beaten' by Basel police
CH, a British expat architect working in Basel, knew he was in the wrong when he fled from police on a bicycle that is banned by city bylaws but he did not expect to get pepper sprayed and beaten up.
CH, 31, suffered cuts and bruises to his face and a broken tooth after Basel police arrested him last Thursday night for riding a bike without cable brakes.
Now, he told The Local in an interview on Monday, he is seeking advice on filing a complaint after suffering what he called “brutality, violence and humiliation” at the hands of two city police officers.
CH was pedalling at around 7.15pm on his custom-built, fixed gear, single-speed bicycle to the Schaulager Museum, where he was to meet his wife to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.
The British citizen, born in Hong Kong but educated at university in Scotland, never reached the museum and ended up in hospital instead.
According to his account, he cycled along the Viaduct bridge toward Basel’s Markthalle when he noticed a policeman stepping out of an unmarked brown van.
Realizing that he was riding a bike not permitted in Basel because it does not have regular brakes and that he could face a “heavy fine”, CH said he “panicked and made a U-turn”.
Police followed in the van with a siren blaring, he said.
CH said he changed direction four more times, ignoring the calls of officers to stop.
“Then they pepper-sprayed me and I was still on my bike when they tackled me to the ground,” he told The Local.
The slightly built architect — he weighs around 60 kilograms — lost part of a tooth during the arrest.
“It could have been the impact of the fall or when they handcuffed me,” CH said.
“I also received punches to the face.”
CH denied the reported contention of police that he was resisting arrest and that he was injured when he fell from his bike.
“From the time I was pepper-sprayed I did not do anything to get away,” he said.
Other officers confiscated CH’s bicycle and as he was driven to the hospital the men who beat him up played “loud heavy metal music”.
When they arrived at the hospital, CH said he was denied the right to make a telephone call.
All but one of the officers involved removed the name tabs fastened to their uniforms with velcro, he added.
CH has lived in Basel for seven years and said he likes the city.
But he is disappointed by the way police acted.
“From my friends I have heard similar stories,” he said.
“To my mind they are not very friendly or gentlemanly.”
He acknowledged that language was a barrier, since the officers spoke little English and gave out orders in Swiss-German, which he could not understand.
Basel police initially had no comment on the incident, which has been picked up by local media.
“In terms of the reaction, it’s very divided,” CH said.
“There are also some very intelligent people who understand my part of the story.”
CH said he has yet to hear from police as to whether he will be charged or fined.
But he added: “I hope others can learn from this and that something good can come from this bad story.”
NB: This article was amended on February 22nd 2017 to remove the name of the victim and his photo, at his request, in an acknowledgement of his right to be forgotten.