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Portugal charges 18 police with 'torture' of young black men

All 18 officers at a Portuguese police station are to go on trial over the 2015 detention of six men of African origin. Prosecutors say the victims suffered "tremendous physical and psychological violence."

The entire force of the Alfragide police station, northwest of the Portuguese capital, were charged on Tuesday with detaining and torturing six young black men who had attempted to protest against another man's arrest.

Prosecutors said the officers will face trial over "torture and other cruel treatment" as well as other charges stemming from the incident in February 2015. 

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Five of the men, aged 23 to 25 at the time, went to the station to protest the "arbitrary and violent" arrest of one of their friends from the Cova da Moura neighborhood during clashes with police.

The district, just 15 minutes drive from Lisbon, is known for its large population of immigrants from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off of Africa's northwest coast.

The five men were then also detained for 48 hours and "humiliated" according to the Diario de Noticias newspaper.

Portugal Touristen Cova da Moura (Getty Images/AFP/P. de Melo Moreira)

Cova da Moura is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Europe, often likened to the favelas of Brazil

'Racist' behavior

Prosecutors have accused the officers of being motivated by feelings of xenophobia, hate and racial discrimination, the paper added.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office described how the young men were subjected to "degrading and inhuman treatment" as well as unlawful imprisonment.

The officers committed a grave abuse of their powers and violated their duties, the statement added.

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The young men's families complained to authorities after their sons were cleared of charges of resisting arrest and assault.

Portugal has large minorities from its former African colonies as well as Brazil and India.

But reports of racist violence are rare, and this case sparked outrage from many minority groups and those working with disadvantaged communities.

The police said two of the officers had already faced disciplinary sanctions.

mm/gsw (AFP, Reuters)

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