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Vol. 72/No. 51      December 29, 2008

 
London court lets off cops
in 2005 ‘antiterror’ killing
 
BY JONATHAN SILBERMAN  
LONDON—Leading up to the December 12 verdict in the case of electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot in the head seven times by cops July 22, 2005, the coroner who presided over the case instructed the jury it could not return a finding that the police action was “unlawful.”

Michael Wright, a retired high court judge, also instructed the jury not to attach any criminal or civil fault to individual cops. The jury was left with two options: “open verdict” or upholding the killing as “lawful.”

By an 8-2 vote, jurors returned an “open verdict” December 12. The term means there was not enough evidence to decide the cause of death.

Wright condemned a silent protest by the de Menezes family, which sought to inform the jurors that they had the legal right to return an “unlawful killing” verdict. Three family members stood up in court displaying T-shirts bearing the message, “Your legal right to decide—unlawful killing verdict.” Wright said, “It’s quite wrong for anyone to seek to put pressure on a jury.”

De Menezes, a 27-year-old worker of Brazilian origin, was pinned down and shot at point-blank range by cops while he sat on a Tube (underground) train.

The police claimed he was suspected in bombings here two weeks earlier on trains and a bus that killed more than 50 people. The day before he was shot, there had been a failed bombing attempt.

At first, then Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair claimed that de Menezes was “directly linked” to the failed bombing attempt. Police also claimed that he had acted “suspiciously,” was wearing a “padded jacket,” and had vaulted the London Underground pay turnstiles. This soon turned out to be false. The police then changed their tune, stating that de Menezes was not a suspect and his death was a “tragedy.”

Contrary to arguments advanced by the police, the jury found that de Menezes was not acting suspiciously and was not moving toward a cop when the shooting began. Jurors also rejected the police story that they had shouted “armed police” before opening fire.

No individual cop has been prosecuted for the de Menezes killing. A trial was held last year in which the police were found guilty of endangering the public by breaching health and safety laws. They were fined 175,000 (US$260,000). Cressida Dick, who led the police operation, was explicitly exonerated in the trial. She has since been promoted to deputy assistant commissioner.

In evidence to the inquest, one of the cops—identified as Owen—stated that Dick had given the instruction for a “hard stop” in relation to the pursuit of de Menezes. “A hard stop is an aggressive stop,” Owen clarified. “It’s not an official term but it is an aggressive stop.”

Anna Dunwoodie, who was at the time of the killing sitting two seats away from de Menezes, presented evidence at the inquest. Her testimony gave the lie to police claims that de Menezes was doing anything threatening or suspicious. She said she was “most frightened” by a man she later discovered to be the police surveillance officer on the train.

The government and its police forces have sought to use bombing incidents to try to legitimize increased cop powers and other attacks on the rights of working people, including the shoot-to-kill policy and tightened border controls. The government is also seeking to extend police pre-charge detention powers to 42 days. The cops currently have the right to detain suspects for 28 days before charging them.
 
 
Related articles:
Ft. Dix ‘antiterror’ trial in N.J. marked by attacks on rights
British ‘antiterrorist’ cops arrest Conservative Party spokesperson
Long Island cops cover up anti-immigrant attacks
Communist League opposes attacks on free speech in Canada elections  
 
 
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