Portugal: Ukraine president asks for ‘full, impartial’ probe into airport death

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has asked his counterpart in Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to “ensure a complete and impartial investigation” into the death of a Ukraine national last March at a holding centre overseen by the Immigraiton and Borders Service (SEF) at Lisbon airport.

According to a statement released on the official website of Portugal’s president, de Sousa and Zelensky talked for one hour and, among several subjects addressed, “dealt with the case” of Ihor Homeniuk.

Ukraine’s head of state is said to have “thanked the Portuguese side for the fair compensation and concern” for the family of the man, who prosecutors believe were killed by SEF inspectors.

“We are confident that the Portuguese side will ensure a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the death of the Ukrainian citizen Ihor Homeniuk,” Zelenskyy is reportedly to have said during his conversation with de Sousa.

Homeniuk died after being beaten by three SEF inspectors, who are charged with aggravated homicide, with the alleged complicity of or cover-up by 12 other inspectors. 

The trial in this case is to start on 20 January.

Nine months after the alleged homicide, the SEF’s then director, Cristina Gatões, resigned as several political parties demanded that the affairs should have political consequences. The same parties also demanded the resignation of the minister for internal administration, Eduardo Cabrita, who did not accede to their demand, while saying that Gatões did the right thin in offering her resignation, since she would not be able to lead the process of restructuring the service that he said was now underway.

De Sousa – who is standing for re-election later this month – has also been criticised by several parties and rival candidates for the 24 January presiddential elections for not having contacted Homeniuk’s family after he learned of the case, as well as for having not commented publicly on the case for nine months after the death. 

In answer to these criticisms, the president has said that he took the view that he should not do so in order to “make no exception” given that the death was still under investigation.