Rio de Janeiro: Swimmers from the US Olympic delegation — Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger — were released after questioning for four hours in a Brazilian police station regarding an alleged assault and robbery case, the media reported.
The authorities have also asked fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte to be interrogated in the US regarding an alleged assault early Sunday morning involving four US swimmers here. On Wednesday evening, when Bentz and Conger tried to board a plane for the US here, they were detained by police as they had some questions regarding the validity of the robbery claim previously filed by Lochte, reports Xinhua.
During their detention, Bentz and Conger refused to testify on the alleged attack, according to police sources and the swimmers’ lawyer Sergio Guerra. After being released, the swimmers were moved to a hotel close to the airport after handing over their passports to local authorities. The two swimmers have agreed to speak to the police once again on Thursday along with fellow teammate James Feigen who was also present during the alleged incident on Sunday morning and is still in Brazil, according to online news site USA Today.
“My clients were removed from the plane and were coerced to try to get a testimony which is a legal aberration. However, what shocked me the most was that they had to hand over their passports,” criticized the lawyer, who added that Bentz and Conger “were left very frightened, and didn’t understand why they weren’t being allowed to leave (Rio).” According to Lochte’s original version of events, he and his teammates, Feigen, Conger and Bentz, were returning to their hotel early Sunday morning, after attending a party in Rio when their taxi was stopped by police. He then alleged that they were not actually police but armed robbers disguised as police. The robbers allegedly told the swimmers to get on the ground, which they all did except for Lochte and that was when one of the robbers allegedly put a gun to the head of the 12-time Olympic medalist.
The robbers allegedly took Lochte’s wallet and money from the rest of the swimmers but left Lochte’s cell phone and credentials. Originally Lochte and the three other swimmers did not report what had happened to the US Olympic Committee or Brazilian police. The police only began to investigate after the media got hold of the story from Lochte’s parents.
However, in a phone interview with Matt Lauer, Lochte has since changed his version of events including the part where the robbers had posed as police. Instead, he told Lauer they were robbed when they stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom. Lochte also said that the gun was not actually held to his head. Brazilian police said there are major discrepancies in the four swimmers’ versions of events which Lochte has put down to the trauma of the event. However, there is security footage of the four men joking around after the alleged robbery which has been stated by Brazilian judge Keyla Blanc as not being normal behavior for people who have just been robbed at gunpoint.
Brazil’s police believe that the four swimmers made up the whole story in order to avoid the truth getting out. According to the police’s version of events, the swimmers were drunk and were at the gas station to use the bathroom when one of them broke a door which caused an argument with the gas station’s security staff. Security then called the police but before the police could arrive the swimmers tried to leave which caused more arguments. After the incident, Lochte and his teammates promised to pay for the damages, according to sources cited by local media. Due to this, Brazil’s justice system ordered the retention of all four swimmers passports on Wednesday but Lochte had already returned to the United States earlier in the week.
In the US suspects can’t be held without a warrant, but in Brazil things are quite different. The police who removed the swimmers from the plane had a court order to detain and question them. According to Brazilian law, filing a false police report could get the teammates six months’ detention and a fine. Brazilian law also states that foreigners are not immune, therefore, the US swimmers could be detained, arrested and tried according to Brazilian law even though they are citizens of another country. –IANS
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