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Officers avoid criminal charges in London shooting

LONDON -- Police officers who shot and killed an innocent Brazilian they mistook for a suicide bomber will not face criminal charges, prosecutors said yesterday 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 suicide 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 for the killing and said they had mistaken de 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 the officers 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.

But he said London's Metropolitan Police would be prosecuted for violating health and safety laws in ``failing to provide for the health, safety, and welfare" of de Menezes.

The decision outraged the de Menezes family.

``It's completely unbelievable," said Alex Pereira, a cousin. ``You just shoot someone 11 times, and say that was a mistake." The victim was actually shot seven times.

``We need an explanation. We have seen no evidence. None," Pereira said.

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 director Shami Chakrabarti.

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

London's Metropolitan Police welcomed the decision not to charge the officers, but said it was ``concerned and clearly disappointed" that charges for breaking health and safety laws would be brought.

``Whatever the implications of this charge, we are charged with the duty of protecting [Londoners] and we intend to go on doing that," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson.

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

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