Austrian Cops Sentenced in Nigeria
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A district court found three policemen guilty Monday in the death of a Nigerian immigrant during his deportation and gave them suspended eight-month sentences.
Marcus Omofuma, 25, died May 1, 1999, while on a plane taking him out of the country. The three officers forcibly strapped him to a seat and taped his mouth and nose shut.
When he screamed, they put more tape over his mouth and tightened the belt around his chest, witnesses said.
The court in Korneuburg, just north of Vienna, found the three men guilty of negligent homicide but acquitted them of torture leading to death, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Explaining the mild sentences, Judge Alexander Fiala told the court that _ while Omofuma’s death struggle must have taken ``at least half, probably one hour″ _ there was no evidence to show that the three defendants meant to torture him.
Although the negligent homicide charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, Fiala said none of the defendants had a criminal record. Also, the three cooperated with the court and Omofuma ``shared partially in the guilt″ by resisting his extradition, Fiala said, in comments cited by the Austria Press Agency.
Some changes have since been made to deportation rules. Police are now instructed to stop deportation proceedings if the health of the deportee is at risk.
Reprimanding the defendants, Fiala said their actions _ tying and gagging Omofuma to the extent where he could not signal his distress _ were ``inhumane.″