Parents of two young holidaymakers take complaints to ‘highest levels’
The parents of two young men allegedly beaten in different incidents by police in the Algarve have lodged separate complaints after contacting their countries’ consulates, determined not to allow either matter to be ‘swept under the carpet’.
The mother of one of the young men injured in the first incident said she felt she must complain “to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family…”
She told us: “I’m so scared it’s going to happen to another family and it could so easily have been fatal. I would hate to have that on my conscience and know I did nothing”.
What happened, as far as her son’s account goes, is that he and a friend with whom he was spending a few days in Lagos, were leaving Lagos’ Grand Café in the early hours of Tuesday July 18 when “a large dark blue van (Mercedes sprinter size) drove slowly past us, then reversed and stopped near us. Six men wearing uniform, who we assumed at the time were police, jumped out of the van and approached us, shouting and wielding batons. They surrounded us and Jack (name changed to preserve anonymity) held up his hands in surrender and was cornered but they started to swing the batons at his head. We quickly realised we were in great danger, so Jack shouted to run, which we tried to do, whilst these men tried to stop us getting away and hit us on the head with their batons. We ran away as fast as we could whilst these men continued to swing their batons at us. As I ran through them, two of the men connected their weapons with my head and my elbow, causing a large gash in my skull and severe bruising to my elbow. We ran for a few minutes and realised the men were not following…”
The two by this time were in shock; the one worst injured “losing a lot of blood” from his head injury. They telephoned for an ambulance, and within half an hour were on their way to Portimão Hospital.
“While the paramedics were trying to stop the bleeding and bandaging my head, they mentioned that during the summer months, police are drafted in from Lisbon and known to be aggressive towards foreigners”, the statement made by the injured young men reads.
“They mentioned they have attended to similar unprovoked attacks in the past”.
The 20-somethings spent the next seven hours in Portimão hospital. The worst injured had four stitches to his head – his friend appeared ‘less injured’ in that he simply had two large lumps on the back of his head and a presumed concussion.
Since returning to UK, however, the full extent of head injury has become clear. A CAT scan at Exeter General Hospital showed the young man had actually suffered a fractured skull. It was just incredibly lucky that he hadn’t suffered catastrophic brain swelling, particularly considering the flight home came within hours of his discharge from Portimão Hospital.
Both are coming to terms with what happened to them, one admitting to having flashbacks, trouble sleeping and panic attacks.
The least injured has returned to work; the other has still not received the medical ‘all-clear’.
Had it not been because of the mother who has been in touch with the British Consulate and written a formal complaint to IGAI, the general inspectorate of interior administration (which oversees the countries’ police forces) they would arguably have been too traumatised to even think about complaining.
As the complaint to IGAI stresses: “This could so easily have been a different outcome. I am sure you as a country do not want or need the death of a tourist on your hands, especially in these circumstances”.
Shocking as this account is, within days of becoming aware of it, the Resident received another complaint, this time from the father of a 17-year-old American, “spending a few days with friends in Portugal and visiting Quarteira.
“Last night they were in a club in Faro”, the father wrote to us on July 28. “My son had his iPhone stolen at the club. When he reported it to the police they basically laughed him off. He may have said something off color which the police took as an insult. They dragged him to the ground, put their knee on his neck, beat him up with their sticks, threw him in the patrol car and punched him in the face and nose 3 times.
“At the police station they beat him up some more and then told him to clean up.
“He was picked up by his friend’s parents at about 5:30 am.
“This morning he appeared in court and was given a €200 fine. His public defender advised him not to say anything about the beating at this time.
“I’m sending a complaint to the US Embassy in Lisbon. In addition, other inquiries are taking place through a diplomat/ friend of the family with her Consulate General counterpart in Portugal.
“My son will be returning to the US on Tuesday, August 2.
“If you are interested in this matter, and want more details, please let me know.
“I hope you do, because police brutality specially on a minor, should not be condoned, ironically, in a country which is celebrating World Youth Day”.
We have been in touch with the father, to receive further details as this text was going up online:
“In addition, (my son’s) friend was punched in the face and had a black and swollen eye. He’s also a U.S. citizen living in Portugal. I believe his parents are formally logging a complaint with the US Embassy and Lisbon as I have.
“This morning I sent a letter to the editor of the New York Times. I have made over 30 comments on different YouTube videos of Algarve and Faro, and Portugal in general, describing this incident of police brutality upon my son and his friends who, we need to remember, are minors.
“I will continue to disseminate this incident by any means possible as long as it takes. I thank you so much for taking an interest and advocating this issue. Police brutality in Portugal is a serious problem and will continue until they can no longer get away with it. In the meantime, someone will die”.
The father added that his son’s treatment in the police station was vicious. He was “thrown onto the floor in the bathroom ( where there are no cameras ), handcuffed and kicked”.
Meantime, the mother who has written to IGAI, enclosing photographic evidence of the injuries to her son, simply hopes something comes of the efforts to expose these incidents.
“The main issue is how unjust this is”, she told us. “These attackers should not be allowed to get away with what they have done and potentially what could happen to someone in the future, if they are not reprimanded. I know I cannot change what has happened to my son but hopefully I can stop this happening to another person in the future”.
As soon as the Resident can provide any updates – particularly a statement from IGAI if this is forthcoming – we will.