London police in dock over Brazilian's shooting

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LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) London's police force goes on trial today accused of breaking health and safety laws over the killing of an innocent Brazilian man, shot in the head seven times by officers who mistook him for a suicide bomber.

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was gunned down as he boarded an underground train in south London on July 22, 2005 by officers who had wrongly identified him as one of four men who tried to attack the London transport system the day before.

The botched suicide bombings, just two weeks after four young British Islamists killed themselves and 52 people on three underground trains and a bus in the capital's worst peacetime attack, sparked a frantic manhunt by British police.

Prosecutors brought the rare corporate case against London's Metropolitan Police Service after deciding last year there was insufficient evidence to charge individual officers involved in the operation, to the fury of de Menezes's family.

Police are accused under health and safety laws of failing to conduct ''the planning and the implementation of the surveillance, pursuit, arrest and detention of a suspected suicide bomber'' in a way that ensured the public and de Menezes ''were not exposed to risks''.

De Menezes, an electrician, happened to live in the same block of flats as Hussein Osman, one of four men jailed earlier this year for plotting the unsuccessful July 21 attacks.

When he left for work on July 22, undercover officers followed him onto two buses and then to Stockwell station, where he calmly headed to the platform before running to catch a train which had just pulled in.

Armed police who had been sent to intercept him got on board, pushed him to the floor of the carriage, and shot him seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission watchdog said de Menezes had done nothing to arouse suspicion.

Police later apologised and said they had made a mistake, citing the unprecedented pressures they were facing at the time.

In August, an IPCC probe ruled that Britain's top counter-terrorism officer, Andy Hayman, had misled colleagues and the public on the afternoon of the shooting by not telling them the dead man was innocent. That information was only made public 24 hours afterwards.

London police commisioner, Ian Blair, who bore the brunt of criticism, was cleared of lying.

The trial is due to last six weeks and if found guilty the police force, which said such a verdict would severely hamper its counter-terrorism work, faces a large fine.

Reuters MP VP0438

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