Latin America & Caribbean

Police sentenced over Brazil Carandiru jail massacre

Sao Paulo graffiti on wall of the Carandiru prison complex (2006) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Carandiru complex in Sao Paulo has been turned into a park, its walls adorned with graffiti

A court in Brazil has sentenced 15 policemen to lengthy jail sentences for their role in putting down a notorious prison riot more than two decades ago.

The judge sentenced each of the officers to 48 years in prison over what became known as the "Carandiru massacre".

More than 100 inmates died when police stormed the jail in Sao Paulo to quell a prisoner uprising. Many were locked in their cells and shot at close range.

In total 73 police have been convicted.

Deadly shooting

While the sentence on Wednesday concluded the long-running trial in connection with the 1992 Carandiru riot, lawyers for those convicted are expected to appeal.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The jail was demolished in 2002, but the state has been slow to bring the perpetrators to trial

The riot began with a brawl between rival groups of inmates and mushroomed into an uprising that quickly spread through the penitentiary, which was built to hold fewer than 4,000 inmates but was housing nearly 8,000.

The riot raged for around three hours before more than 300 officers entered the facility, shooting 111 inmates in about 30 minutes.

Survivors of the riot said the police killed prisoners after they had surrendered or while they were trying to hide in their cells.

Autopsies found the dead were riddled with an average of five bullets. No police officers were killed in the incident.

Lawyers for the defendants argued the officers had shot in self defence.

Slow justice

The trial was split in four stages, each dealing with a different floor of the prison.

In April 2013, 23 officers were found guilty of killing 13 prisoners on the first floor. They were sentenced to 156 years each.

In August, another 25 police were given 624 years each for the deaths of 52 inmates on the second floor.

Earlier this year, 10 riot police were found guilty of shooting dead eight inmates and sentenced to more than 90 years.

The severity of the sentences reflects the shock the Brazilian public felt when news of the killings spread.

However, the length of the jail terms is largely symbolic as no-one in Brazil serves more than 30 years in prison.

The officer who led the police operation, Col Ubiratan Guimaraes, was convicted in 2001 of using excessive force, but was later acquitted on appeal.

The prison was torn down 10 years after the riot and transformed into a park.

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