Portugal: Verdict on 10 May in trial of border officials for Ukraine man’s death

The presiding judge in the trial of three inspectors of Portugal’s Immigration and Border Servic (SEF) for their involvement in the death of Ihor Homeniuk, a Ukraine national, in a holding facility at Lisbon airport in March 2020 has scheduled for 10 May the hearing at which the verdict will be announced.

The date was announced by the judge, Rui Coelho, on Monday, following closing arguments in the trial. The May hearing is to take place at Lisbon’s Monsanto court. 

Public prosecutors on Monday requested prison sentences of between eight and 16 years for the three inspectors, for the crime of grievous bodily harm, aggravated by the result (death). Based on the alleged degree of guilt of each of the accused, in her closing arguments the lead prosecutor, Leonor Machado, asked that Duarte Laja and Luís Silva be given sentences of between 12 and 16 years in prison, but preferably not less than 13 years, while for Bruno Sousa, whose degree of guilt she deemed to be lesser, because he was influenced by the other defendants, she asked for a sentence of no less than eight years in prison.

The three SEF inspectors had been charged for aggravated murder, the maximum penalty for which is 25 years in prison, but in the previous session the presiding judge had announced that the court was considering changing the charge to grievous bodily harm, aggravated by the result (death), for which the penalty is between four and 16 years in prison.

In the trial, two of the defendants – Laja and Luís – also face the charge of possession of an illegal weapon (a baton).

However, José Gaspar Schwalbach, the lawyer for Homeniuk’s family – which has the status of assistant in the case -equested that the three inspectors be convicted for the crime of aggravated murder, as per the charge sheet. In his closing arguments, Schwalbach argued against any conversion of the original charge into one of grievous bodily harm, aggravated by the result.

The lawyer for one of the accused, meanwhile, argued that the trial should be declared null, after the judge rejected a request that an expert forensic consultant be allowed to give evidence. Ricardo Sá Fernandes, lawyer for Bruno Sousa, made his comment after the presiding judge communicated to the parties, before the start of closing arguments, that he had rejected the defence’s request to hear the forensic expert on the grounds, among others, that it was “impossible to perform a new forensic examination of the corpse.”

Homeniuk was handcuffed and assaulted at the SEF holding facility at Lisbon airport in March 2020, dying allegedly from slow asphyxiation due to the fracture of several ribs.