Three Portuguese border officers were sentenced to several years in jail on Monday, in a much-awaited ruling over the fatal beating last year of a Ukrainian man in a Lisbon airport.
The Lisbon court found that Ihor Homeniuk, 42, was kicked, beaten, handcuffed with his hands and legs taped and then left to slowly asphyxiate on the floor of a room at a detention center at the airport. He had come to Portugal to look for work.
Homeniuk’s death sent shock waves across the nation, ultimately leading to the abolishment of the border service last month amid calls from human right advocates to tackle abuses.
“You, in acting the way you did, took someone’s life and ruined yours,” Judge Rui Coelho told the officers, who will now stay under house arrest until they are sent to prison. “The death was a direct consequence of the defendants’ conduct.”
Two of them, Duarte Laja and Luís Silva, were sentenced to nine years behind bars while Bruno Sousa will spend seven years in a jail. The officers will appeal the decision.
Although the murder charge was dropped as the court said the three officers had no intention to kill Homeniuk, the judge said they “wanted to hit, cause pain and discomfort” to the victim.
The three officers were found guilty of inflicting serious bodily harm that ultimately led to Homeniuk’s death, the court said.
Pictures taken during Homeniuk’s autopsy and seen by Reuters showed his body covered in dark bruises, from his face to his ankles, with deep handcuff marks on his wrists.
“Justice has been done,” Jose Schwalbach, the lawyer for Homeniuk’s widow, told reporters as he left court. “It will serve as an example for all officers who do their job with difficulty every day but who cannot abuse the power they have.”