Three Portuguese Border Officers Jailed for Beating Ukrainian Migrant to Death

A Portuguese court on May 10 sentenced three border officers to jail for beating a Ukrainian migrant to death last year.

The Lisbon Criminal Court found Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) officers Bruno Sousa, Duarte Laja, and Luís Silva guilty of aggravated assault that led to the death of Ihor Homenyuk, who arrived in the capital without a valid visa in March 2020 to search for work.

Judge Rui Coelho sentenced Laja and Silva to nine years in prison while Sousa received a seven-year prison sentence.

Although prosecutors dropped the murder charges because an intent to kill was not proven, Coelho said that the three defendants “wanted to hit, cause pain and discomfort” to Homenyuk.

“The death of Ihor Homenyuk was a direct consequence of the conduct of the defendants who had a duty to act differently,” Coelho said as he announced the verdict.

All three officers denied the charges.

According to the doctor who carried out the autopsy, Homenyuk died on March 12, 2020 when he was left alone to slowly suffocate with his face down on the ground, several ribs broken, hands cuffed behind his back, and legs tied together.

Prosecutors said that the officers kicked, punched, and struck Homenyuk with batons, leading Homenyuk to die of asphyxiation. But the defense lawyers suggested that other people could have caused the injuries.

SEF initially claimed that Homenyuk died from an epilepsy attack.

Homenyuk’s death shocked Portugal, forcing SEF Director Cristina Gatoes to resign last December and for the government to abolish SEF last April.

Border enforcement is being handed to other police forces, while the Asylum and Foreigners Service has been created to handle administrative tasks.

The government also paid around €834,000 ($1,012,764) in compensation to Homenyuk’s family last December.

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