Portugal border guards jailed for beating Ukrainian to death

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image captionThe Ukrainian had arrived in Lisbon without a valid visa

Three Portuguese border guards have been jailed for beating to death a Ukrainian jobseeker after he arrived without a valid visa.

The guards kicked, punched and struck Ihor Homenyuk, 40, with batons at a Lisbon airport detention centre last year.

They have been sentenced to between seven and nine years in prison.

The death has shocked the country and forced the government to disband the border service.

Mr Homenyuk, a father of two, arrived in the Portuguese capital without a valid visa in March last year to look for work. He was refused entry, and transferred to a detention centre after refusing to board a flight back home.

Two days later, he slowly suffocated after being left alone, face down on the floor with several broken ribs, his hands cuffed behind his back and legs tied together, according to a doctor who carried out the autopsy.

The guards had struck him with batons, causing him to die of asphyxiation, the Lisbon court heard.

Guards 'wanted to hit and cause pain'

Pictures taken during Mr Homenyuk's autopsy showed his body covered in dark bruises, from his face to his ankles, with deep handcuff marks on his wrists, Reuters news agency reported.

The court found immigration officials Bruno Sousa, Duarte Laja and Luís Silva guilty of grievous bodily harm leading to Mr Homenyuk's death. The judge sentenced Silva and Laja to nine years in prison, and Sousa to seven years.

Although prosecutors dropped murder charges, as an intent to kill was not proven, the judge said the three "wanted to hit, cause pain and discomfort" to the victim.

"Ihor Homeniuk's death was a direct consequence of the behaviour of the defendants whose duty was to act otherwise," Judge Rui Coelho said as he read out the verdict, the Lusa news agency reported.

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image captionPortugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa condemned the attack

Widespread outcry

His death has created a widespread outcry in Portugal, and calls from human rights campaigners for reforms to tackle abuses.

The government said last month it was breaking up the border service.

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa called the killing unforgiveable and shocking. The government paid $850,000 (£600,000) in compensation to Mr Homenyuk's wife and children.

"Justice has been done," the lawyer representing the victim's family said.

"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."

Lawyers for the former officers said they would appeal against their convictions.

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