Eight prison workers cleared in inmate's death

Malcolm Curtis
Malcolm Curtis - [email protected] • 9 Jan, 2014 Updated Thu 9 Jan 2014 22:11 CEST
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A scandal implicating nine Swiss prison workers over the death of an inmate who set fire to his mattress has resulted in the conviction of just one person, the jail’s deputy chief guardian.

After Skander Vogt, 30, died from smoke inhalation at the Bochuz prison in the canton of Vaud on March 11th 2010 revelations emerged that staff failed to intervene while he suffocated over a period of 90 minutes.

On Thursday, a criminal court for the northern Vaud region handed the deputy jail guard chief a suspended 3,000-franc ($3,300) fine after finding him guilty of putting the prisoner at risk, the ATS news agency reported.

The court determined that he did not respond appropriately to the situation after being alerted about the fire.

Among other things, he was reproached for discouraging two guards under his command, who were concerned about Vogt’s safety, from entering the cell, ATS reported.

The eight other employees, including medical personnel, were acquitted of charges.

A lawyer for Vogt’s family has not yet announced whether he intends to appeal the decision, ATS said.

The Vogt case, with its widespread media coverage in Switzerland, has already led to the replacement of the chief of the penitentiary service in the canton of Vaud and a spate of bad publicity about how the service operates.

A leaked phone recording revealed that guards were laughing while Vogt was in a cell without adequate ventilation to remove the smoke from the fire.

Retired federal judge Claude Rouiller, who investigated the case for the canton, earlier called the prisoner’s death “absurd”, according to past media reports.

Vogt, who was jailed for 20 months as a teenager in 2001 for minor offences, ended up with an indefinite sentence because of his behaviour in the prison.

In July 2008, in a protest over his continued internment, Vogt climbed on the prison’s roof where he threatened to jump off while remaining there for 30 hours until police were able to pull him to safety.

Vogt was “neither mentally sick nor a dangerous criminal,” Rouiller concluded, although he was clearly affected by having spent long periods of time in a “high security” environment.

The former judge criticized staff who justified not intervening to help Vogt because they were following “like robots” a policy that required special forces to remove a dangerous prisoner from his cell.

However, Rouiller said while staff acted in an inadequate way the evidence showed there was no one who wanted to see Vogt die.

Penitentiary employees testified that Vogt was a difficult and dangerous prisoner.

His sister, Senda Vogt, testified earlier that they were orphaned after being brought up in Tunisia, where her brother was the victim of physical violence and sexual abuse.

Skander Vogt  moved to Switzerland at the age of 15 when he was sent to live with foster parents and then in various institutions in Vaud before getting into trouble with the law.



Malcolm Curtis 2014/01/09 22:11

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