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Brazil police sentenced over jail killings

Twenty-three officers get 156 years each for their role in Sao Paulo's Carandiru prison revolt that left 111 dead.

Last Modified: 21 Apr 2013 15:42
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The Carandiru prison, which was Latin America's biggest prison with 8,000 inmates, was demolished in 2002 [AP]

A court in Brazil has sentenced 23 police officers to 156 years in jail each for their role in the killing of 111 inmates during the country's deadliest prison uprising in 1992.

Judge Jose Augusto Marzagao on Sunday sentenced the 23 from among 26 officers on trial before the Sao Paulo state tribunal. Three others were acquitted and dozens more will be tried in the coming months.

But under Brazilian law, no one can serve more than 30 years in prison.

The officers had originally been charged with killing 15 inmates in Sao Paulo's Carandiru prison, but prosecutors said that two of those prisoners were stabbed to death by fellow inmates.

The officers, most of them now retired, are free pending the outcome of their appeal.

The defence, which argued that the police officers fired in self-defence after being threatened and assaulted by the prisoners, said it would appeal.

None of the officers involved in the operation, which came to be known as the "Carandiru massacre", were harmed. In addition to the 111 prisoners killed, about 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.

Tampering of evidence

But evidence uncovered later suggested military police had shot prisoners, and then destroyed evidence which could have determined individual responsibility for the killings.

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 mysterious 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 organised a series of assaults on police stations and other buildings that left more than 170 people dead and paralysed 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.

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