LISBON: Portuguese prosecutors on Tuesday charged 18 police officers at a station outside Lisbon of detaining and torturing six young men of African origin who had attempted to protest another young man's arrest.
The officers, representing the entire police force at the station in Alfragide, northwest of the capital, will face trial over "torture and other cruel treatment" and other charges stemming from the incident, the Lisbon prosecutor's office said.
In February 2015, 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 neighbourhood, known for its large population of immigrants from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off Africa's northwest coast.
The five men were then also detained and "humiliated", the Diario de Noticias newspaper reported, citing the conclusions of a judicial investigation.
The six were held for 48 hours, during which they were "victims of tremendous physical and psychological violence by officials of an authority dominated by feelings of xenophobia, hate and racial discrimination," the Portuguese daily said.
At the time, the officers said dozens of young men had tried to force their way into the police station to free their friend, claims that were contradicted by the victims and other witnesses.
Police responded Tuesday by invoking the principle of the presumption of innocence, adding that two officers had already faced disciplinary sanctions.
The case sparked outrage among anti-racist groups and an association which seeks to highlight the plight of young people living in the disadvantaged neighbourhood, prone to crime and drug trafficking.