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No Charges in Train Killing for British Police

July 18, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Police officers who shot and killed a Brazilian man they mistook for a suicide bomber will not face criminal charges, prosecutors said Monday in a decision a relative called "unbelievable."

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was killed by police on a London subway train July 22, 2005 -- two weeks after four bombers killed themselves and 52 commuters on three subway trains and a bus, and a day after a failed set of attacks.

Police at the time apologized and said they had mistaken Menezes for one of the suspects in the failed attacks.

Stephen O'Doherty of the Crown Prosecution Service's Special Crime Division said there was no realistic prospect of convicting an officer of a crime.

"The two officers who fired the fatal shots did so because they thought that Mr. de Menezes had been identified to them as a suicide bomber and that if they did not shoot him, he would blow up the train, killing many people," he said.

"While a number of individuals had made errors in planning and communication, and the cumulative result was the tragic death of Mr. de Menezes, no individual had been culpable to the degree necessary for a criminal offense," O'Doherty said.

He said Metropolitan Police would be prosecuted for violating health and safety laws in "failing to provide for the health, safety and welfare" of Menezes.

The decision outraged the Menezes family .

"It's completely unbelievable," said Alex Pereira, a cousin. "You just shoot someone ... and say that was a mistake."

The human rights group Liberty criticized what it called the secrecy surrounding the shooting at Stockwell Station.

"Nearly one year after the Stockwell tragedy, it is grossly unacceptable that there is still no proper public account of what took place," said Shami Chakrabarti, the group's director.

Pereira said the family was considering challenging the prosecutor's ruling in court.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has yet to announce the result of its own inquiry into the conduct of 15 officers in the case. A fine would be the maximum punishment.

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