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The BBC's Tom Gibb in Sao Paolo
"Many of the prisoners were killed after surrendering, or hiding in their cells"
 real 28k

Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Brazil jail massacre: Policeman convicted
Brazilian police
Police are reported to have shot prisoners point blank
A former Brazilian police chief has been convicted of the murder of 102 inmates in the country's worst prison massacre.

A jury held Colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes responsible for the killings after he ordered special units to storm Latin America's biggest prison - the Carandiru jail in Sao Paulo - during a riot on 2 October, 1992.


It is an important message for society that police are not above the law

Maria Luisa Mendonca, Global Justice
He was sentenced to 632 years, six years each for the victims and 20 years for five attempted murders, although under Brazilian law he will serve a maximum 30-year sentence.

Human rights groups welcomed the verdict, which they said would help end impunity for Brazil's notoriously violent police force.

Colonel Guimaraes, 58, was originally charged with 111 counts of murder, but prosecutors reduced the charges to 102, saying there was no evidence police had killed nine men found stabbed to death.

Carandiru prison
Carandiru is Latin America's largest prison
After sentencing, Colonel Guimaraes hugged his lawyers and was escorted from the Sao Paulo courtroom in tears.

He will be allowed to remain free while his defence mounts an appeal.

According to witnesses and a forensic expert at the trial, many of the inmates were shot execution-style or from outside their cells as they hid behind their bed mattresses for protection.

Many were found naked in an apparent sign of surrender.

Self-defence

Colonel Guimaraes insisted his troops had entered into a shootout with prisoners and fired back in self-defence.

"If our intention was to commit a massacre, then how come only 111 died?" he had said during the trial.

His lawyer, Vicente Cascione, told the jury his client did not commit any crime because the troops under his command were defending themselves.

"If you condemn this man, you will condemn all police officers who risk their lives every day combating crime," Mr Cascione said.

Worldwide criticism

The photographs of bloodied, naked corpses lined up in prison hallways drew criticism from around the world.

Prisoners riot at Carandiru in February 2001
Riots commonly erupt in Carandiru and other jails
The dramatic outcome of the riot also put the spotlight on the squalid and overcrowded conditions in Brazil's prison system, where riots are an almost daily occurrence.

"In our opinion, it is an important message for society that police are not above the law," said Maria Luisa Mendonca of Global Justice, a human rights group, after hearing the verdict.

Colonel Guimaraes is the first of 84 police officers to be tried in connection with the massacre.

No trial dates have yet been set for the other defendants.

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See also:

21 Jun 01 | Americas
Brazilian policeman denies massacre
18 Aug 00 | Americas
Brazil jails police peasant killers
15 Dec 98 | Americas
Inside Latin America's worst prison
19 Feb 01 | Americas
Prison gang with mobile phones
19 Feb 01 | Americas
Brazil's notorious prisons
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