Brazil: Two Ex-Cops Get 31 Years in Jail for Torturing Journalists

    Rio's militiamen

    Rio's militiamen Two Brazilian former police officers  were convicted for being part of the militia that kidnapped and tortured a team of journalists from O Dia newspaper in the Batan Favela area, Rio de Janeiro, in May 2008.

    Judge Alexandre Abrahão sentenced both individuals, Odinei Fernandes da Silva, 35, the 01 and Davi Liberato de Araújo, 32, the 02, to 31 years in prison. They were the bosses of the paramilitary group known as íguia (Eagle).

    In pronouncing the sentence, the judge said that the suspects "constrained" the victims with the use of violence and serious threats, causing physical and mental suffering, in their efforts to obtain information. Besides torturing the journalists, the militia also stole personal items that were not recovered.

    Arrested by the Suppression of Organized Criminal Acts and Special Investigations police (Draco-IE) during the Operation Eagle Nest, both of the accused are currently in prison at Complexo de Gericinó.

    The newspaper team lived in the Batan Favela slum for two weeks to investigate the actions of the local militia. The journalists were kidnapped, tortured and kept in prison by militia members.

    During the ordeal the newspaper workers were subjected to punches, kicks and all kinds of torture including electrical shock, suffocation with plastic bag and Russian roulette.

    The attorney for the two former policemen, André Luiz Silva Gomes, announced that he will appeal the sentence to Rio's Justice Tribunal. Says he, "The sentence goes counter the information contained in the legal proceedings and the evidence is faulty. One of the convicted was in fact in jail, in Magé. This is all a farce."

    ABRAJI, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, released a note in which it welcomes the court decision, adding that the punishment of the guilty persons is crucial to avoid new attacks on journalists and violations of freedom of expression.

    Militias are military organizations composed of common citizens that, in theory, are not part of the armed forces of a country. In Rio de Janeiro, the term "militia" has been associated with illegal practices.

    They are usually groups formed in urban and poor communities under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking. They are financed by the local population, mainly businesses, in exchange for the promise of protection.

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