SÃO PAULO, Brazil — A court in Brazil has sentenced 23 police officers each to 156 years in jail for their involvement in the 1992 Carandiru prison massacre.
The officers were convicted of killing 13 prisoners in São Paulo's Carandiru jail during an attempt to end a riot between two rival gangs that started during a soccer game.
A total of 111 inmates died, and prosecutors said that most were shot dead at close range. Three other police officers were acquitted during the trial. Those convicted were originally charged with killing 15 prisoners, but two were later found to have been killed by fellow inmates.
The main witness for the prosecution was Carandiru's former deputy director, Moacir dos Santos, who said that military police "executed" prisoners, many who were in their cells or who had surrendered and were naked.
"I saw a carpet of bodies," Santos said during the six-day trial. He said police shot inmates with machineguns and other officers outside cheered following the first shootings.
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Forensic expert Osvaldo Negrini Neto, another witness for the prosecution, said 90 percent of the shots were fired inside cells. No police officers died.
Defense attorneys argued that police fired at inmates in self-defense after being threatened and assaulted by prisoners.
Defense lawyer Ieda Ribeiro de Souza was not happy with the narrow verdict, saying she had already appealed the sentences.
"One vote made the difference. I did not expect any condemnation," she told reporters. "The sentence does not reflect the thinking of Brazilian society. One juror decided the future of these men."
The convicted officers will remain at liberty until the appeals process has been concluded.
Police commander Col. Ubiratan Gumarães, who headed the operation, had previously been sentenced to 632 years in prison in 2001 despite the fact that he never entered the jail. His verdict was later overturned on appeal and he died in 2006.
The riot and ensuing operation at Carandiru were made into a hit film in 2003.