Portugal’s SEF border inspectors charged with murdering Ukrainian say: “It wasn’t us…”

After all the months in which the narrative has centred on Ukrainian Ihor Homeniuk being beaten to death by three SEF inspectors at Lisbon airport, the trial has begun, and they are all pleading not guilty.

More than that, they have fingered colleagues employed by airport security as the real culprits.

If true, this raises a major issue as the government has already set about dismantling SEF, almost entirely due to this appalling incident (click here).

The three accused inspectors have already given statements to the court – insisting that they barely laid hands on Mr Homeniuk. They simply did what was necessary, they claim, to handcuff him, as when they first encountered him he had been bound at the hands and feet with duct tape.

The hearing was adjourned before 2pm and will reconvene tomorrow to hear reports from witnesses. 

Defendants Bruno Valadares Sousa, Duarte Laja and Luís Filipe Silva have been under house arrest since March 2020.

According to prosecutors, they beat Mr Homeniuk about the body (one using a kind of truncheon) and left him handcuffed, with broken ribs and lying on his stomach so that he died agonisingly slowly due to the compression of his chest cavity.

Public prosecutors also allege the inspectors – as well as other defendants working at the CIT (temporary installation centre) at the airport – tried to ‘cover up the facts’ and claim Mr Homeniuk had died of natural causes.

This is an incident that puts Portugal in the worst kind of spotlight. Since Mr Homeniuk’s death, there have been a number of other reports of violent treatment handed out to foreigners who have ended up in SEF’s custody – and accounts of generally miserable, unsanitary conditions (click here).

After nine months in which the State had done very little to address this tragedy, compensation was agreed and paid last month to Mr Homeniuk’s family to the tune of around €800,000 (click here).

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