Prosecutors in Portugal have charged all 18 officers at a police station with the unlawful detention and torture of six men of African origin.
The entire force of the Alfragide police station, northwest of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, were charged Tuesday with the February 2016 detainment and torture of six young Black men who attempted to protest against another man’s arrest, according to Agency reports.
The men, who were between 23 and 25 at the time of their arrest, 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 five men were then detained for 48 hours and “humiliated,” according to the local Diario de Noticias newspaper.
The charges were filed after a joint investigation by prosecutors and the Judicial Police following complaints by the families of the six men after they were cleared of charges of resisting arrest and assault.
A statement issued by the prosecutor’s office said the officers involved will face trial over “torture and other cruel treatment,” adding that the officers committed a grave abuse of their powers and violated their duties.
Diario de Noticias reports that prosecutors say the actions of the officers were motivated by feelings of xenophobia, hate, and racial discrimination.
Portugal has a significant minority population from its former African colonies in Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea Bissau, and Cape Verde.
Cova da Moura, the slum district where the torture incident occurred, is 15 minutes by road from Lisbon. The area is known for its large population of Cape Verdean immigrants and Portuguese nationals of African ancestry.
Reports say that while incidences of racially motivated violence are rare in Portugal, this case has sparked outrage from many minority groups and those working with disadvantaged communities.