Trio of 16-year-olds “most active and violent” members of 11-strong group
Faro’s PSP police have today detained three youths for assaulting a Nepalese immigrant in Olhão – an incident that prompted headlines, and a visit to the seaside town by President Marcelo by way of national apology.
Says Lusa, a total of 11 teens have been identified by police – all aged between 14-16, but the trio arrested today were seen to be “the most active and violent” of the group.
Said PSP district commander Dário Prates: “It was possible to link the group to a total of eight incidents, five robberies and three assaults in the month of January alone”.
Today’s police operation aimed to “collect evidence by conducting six house searches”, as well as detain the supposed ringleaders, with a view to their presentation before magistrates.
According to the district commander, the PSP viewed more than 20,000 videos, as well as hundreds of hours of images collected by video surveillance circuit cameras installed in Olhão, to come to today’s conclusion. The images proved “essential to the investigation”. Several witnesses have also been heard.
“It is now known that the youths communicated with each other through a closed group on the social network Instagram, to which they assigned the name ‘8700’ (the Olhão postcode)”, he explained at a press conference today, adding that the group’s actions involved choosing especially vulnerable victims.
Their targets showed this vulnerability either by their nationality – such as immigrants from the Indian and Nepalese communities – or by their social condition. There was an episode of violence against a homeless man, who has not yet been identified.
Victims were also selected by their age: there is a record of a 16-year-old victim of robbery.
The aggressions and robberies were committed “taking advantage of the collective strength, based on an extreme gratuitous and spontaneous violence, especially on the part of the three youths with greater ascendancy in the group, who were detained today”, said the district commander.
The suspects are accused of five crimes of robbery, four crimes of aggravated assault and one crime of violent damage.
“We believe that, besides the motivations inherent to the crimes indicted (robbery and offences against qualified physical integrity), there are also other motives that have to do with promoting their affirmation on the streets of Olhão, and those who accompanied them and witnessed the violent acts, as a form of belonging or integration into the group”, stressed commander Prates, adding that some of the members of the group live on social housing estates, but not all.
In other words, motivation was not “mere xenophobia”, but rather “exploitation of the vulnerability” of victims, the majority of whom have been immigrants.
The head of the Faro district command also stressed that this is the first phase of the investigation – so there is “still a lot of work to be done” as “it’s not yet fully understood what contribution” each member of the group made to the criminal acts.
When questioned by journalists about whether the cases of teens under the age of 16 – the age at which they become subject to criminal proceedings – will be forwarded to the Family and Minors Court, Dário Prates said that the fact that they witnessed the acts may make them witnesses, but may also correspond to a situation of minors at risk.
“If the minors carry out acts contrary to the law, which we associate with the concept of crime, they will be subject to legal enforcement measures. If they are merely observers, or if they witness the acts, they may be in a situation of risk, and the Commission for the Protection of Children and Young People may be informed”, he said.
However, the police commander stressed that this is a question that has to be “coordinated with the public prosecutor’s office for the appropriate forwarding”.
The aggression committed against the Nepalese immigrant in Olhão (Faro district) went viral with the release of a video on social networks, and has since been roundly condemned by Portuguese authorities and politicians.
In addition to the attack – which occurred on 25 January – the group stole the backpack of the victim, who did not press charges.
As was seen on the video uploaded to social media, the Nepalese victims pleaded with his attackers to stop and give him back at least his documents.