A Brazilian court has sentenced more than a score of police officers to 624 years each behind bars for the murder of 52 inmates at Sao Paulo's Carandiru prison in October 1992.

The sentences, announced early Saturday by Judge Rodrigo Tellini de Aguirre Camargo, brought a close to the second stage of the trial.

By the end of the trial's four stages, a total of 78 officers will have been placed in the dock for the killings of 111 inmates during the bloody quelling of a prison riot.

The 25 defendants in this second stage were sentenced to 12 years per killing but will be allowed to remain free pending appeal, the Sao Paulo Court of Justice said in a statement.

A jury found the police guilty of killing the inmates in their cells and in the corridors of the prison and did not accept the argument that they acted in self-defense.

The defendants were initially accused of 73 killings, but 21 of the deaths were later attributed to a prison fight that preceded and motivated the police offensive.

The massacre occurred on Oct. 2, 1992, when police quelled a rebellion in Pavilion 9 of Carandiru, which was Brazil's largest prison at the time. The facility was shuttered 10 years after the bloody episode.

In the trial's first phase, held in April of this year, 23 police were sentenced to 156 years each behind bars for killing 13 inmates.

The officer who led the operation, the late Col. Ubiratan Guimarães, was sentenced in 2001 to 632 years but he was acquitted on appeal without serving any prison time.

Some 2,700 detainees were being held in Pavilion 9 of the Carandiru prison when the riot began, many of them without having been brought to trial.

Humanitarian organizations considered the prison a prime example of human rights violations in Latin American penitentiaries and of the specific deficiencies of Brazil's prison system.

The brutal quelling of the riot was depicted in Hector Babenco's 2003 film "Carandiru," which prosecutors screened for the jurors during the trial. EFE