Brazil police sentenced for prison 'massacre'

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SAO PAULO: Twenty-three Brazilian police officers were sentenced to 156 years in jail each on Sunday for their role in the killing of 111 inmates during Brazil’s deadliest prison uprising in 1992.

 

The 23 were among 26 military officers on trial before the Sao Paulo state  tribunal. The three others were cleared.
 
The officers, most of them now retired, were accused of killing 15  prisoners in Sao Paulo’s Carandiru prison during the operation to quell the  revolt on October 2, 1992, which came to be known as the “Carandiru massacre.”    
 
The defense, which argued that the police officers fired in self-defense  after being threatened and assaulted by the prisoners, said it would appeal.
 
None of the officers involved in the operation were harmed. In addition to  the 111 prisoners killed, some 87 others were wounded.
 
Survivors accused police of firing on inmates who had already surrendered  or were hiding in their cells.
 
Authorities initially claimed the police were trying to break up a fight  between prisoners who had seized control of one of the cell blocks.
 
But evidence uncovered later suggested military police had shot prisoners  and then destroyed evidence which could have determined individual  responsibility for the killings.
 
No one is currently in prison for the murders. The commanding officer of  the operation, Colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes, was initially sentenced to 632 years  in jail for his mishandling of the revolt and the subsequent killings.
 
But in 2006, a court voided the conviction because of mistrial claims. 
 
Later that year, Guimaraes was found dead in his apartment under unclear  circumstances.
 
The massacre in what was then Latin America’s biggest prison, with 8,000  inmates, sparked outrage among inmates, and prosecutors said it was a key  factor in the emergence of a criminal gang known as First Command of the  Capital (PCC) in 1993.
 
The PCC is believed to have ordered the death of the director of the prison  at the time, Jose Ismael Pedrosa.
 
From the prison, PCC bosses organized a series of assaults on police  stations and other buildings that left more than 170 people dead and paralyzed  Sao Paulo for four days in May 2006.
 
The unrest eventually spread to other cities, and scores of suspected  criminals were gunned down in a subsequent wave of police reprisal attacks.
 
Late last year, the PCC was also blamed for a wave of police killings and  bus burnings.
 
The Carandiru prison was demolished in 2002. - AFP

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