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Brazil12 December 2008

Four new arrests in investigation into abduction of O Dia employees

Reporters Without Borders hails the progress being made in the investigation into the abduction and torture of two journalists employed by the regional O Dia newspaper and their driver in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Batan on 14 May.

Three military police officers wanted in connection with the case - Fabio Gonçalves Soares (also known as “Fabinho Catiri”), Marcos Antonio Alves da Silva (aka “Marcos do Bope) and André Luiz de Mattos (aka “Cocada”) - were arrested in a major operation yesterday in Rio involving more than 80 government employees. A fourth man identified as Nilson Bueno (aka “Nilson Faustão”) was also arrested.

Items seized during the operation included equipment belonging to an elite Rio de Janeiro state military police unit called the BOPE. The four detainees are to be charged with “forming a militia.” Four other members of the military police are still being sought.

The O Dia employees were tortured for seven hours after being kidnapped by a militia based in Batan, where the journalists had been preparing a report for the previous two weeks. The case caused an outcry in Brazil, especially as police officers were allegedly involved in the militia.

The two alleged bosses of the militia - civilian police inspector Odinei Fernando da Silva (aka “Dinei” and “Zero Um”) and Davi Liberato de Araújo (aka “Zero Dois”) - were arrested in June.

“We salute the great progress being made towards solving this case and we hope a trial will soon be held that sheds light on the circumstance of this abduction and identifies all those responsible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This investigation must be an example in combating impunity. It nonetheless confirms the existence of serious abuses within police units that will need far-reaching measures.”


18.06.08 - Alleged head of militia that tortured three newspaper employees surrenders to police

Odnei Fernando da Silva, the civilian police inspector who is accused of heading the militia that kidnapped and tortured two O Dia journalists and their driver in Rio de Janeiro’s Batan favela on 14 May, surrendered to the authorities on 16 June.

Also known as “01,” “Dinei” and “Águia,” Da Silva went with his lawyer to the headquarters of the Department for Repression of Criminal Actions and Special Investigations (DRACO) to give himself up. He had been on the run since 4 June, when a warrant for his arrest was issued.

In an initial statement, Da Silva denied any involvement in the abduction and torture of the newspaper’s three employees, claiming that he was at a party in the Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Bangu at the time. Asked about his relationship with the gang’s alleged No. 2, Davi Liberato de Araújo, he said he had known him since childhood but no longer kept his company.

Da Silva was taken to a special detention centre for policemen inside the Gericinó prison complex.

Reporters Without Borders hails this latest progress in the investigation and hopes that the police will quickly establish exactly who was responsible for the barbaric treatment inflicted on O Dia’s employees.


06.06.08 - Fugitive police inspector named as leading suspect in O Dia torture case, another suspect arrested

A man arrested on suspicion of being a member of a militia that kidnapped and tortured a reporter, photographer and driver of the O Dia newspaper in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Batan on 14 May was shown to the press on 4 June by members of a police unit known as the Delegation for Repression of Criminal Actions and Special Investigations (DRACO).

He was identified as Davi Liberato de Araújo, 32, also known as “02” because he is alleged to be second-in-command of the militia. Liberato, who is serving a jail sentence in which he is now periodically allowed out, claims he was in prison at the time of the kidnapping.

The police also announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Odnei Fernando Silva, 35, a former prison guard and currently an inspector in the civilian police, on suspicion of heading the Batan militia. Also known as “01,” “Dinei” and “Águia,” Silva was previously imprisoned for homicide. He is on the run.

The DRACO reported that it was investigating the possibility that members of the military police were also involved in the Batan militia and that the militia used a clandestine cemetery.

The O Dia reporter who was one of the three journalists who were kidnapped has meanwhile claimed that, while being tortured, she recognised the voice of an assistant to Coronel Jairo, a member of the Rio de Janeiro state parliament. Jairo has denied having anything to do with the militia and condemns its activities.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the speed with which the investigation is progressing hopes that the information provided by Liberato will enable the police to identify all those involved in the O Dia kidnapping. The organisation also hopes that Silva will be quickly found and arrested.


02.06.08 - Call for federal commission of enquiry after paramilitaries kidnap and torture three O Dia employees

HE Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil
Mr. Tarso Genro
Minister of Justice
Mr. Sérgio Cabral
Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Dear President Da Silva, Dear Minister and Dear Governor,

You will be aware of the news of the abduction and barbaric mistreatment of three employees of the Rio de Janeiro-based daily O Dia - a reporter, a photographer and a driver - at the hands of a militia operating in a Rio de Janeiro favela on 14 May.

Reporters Without Borders is stunned to learn this could have been carried out by members of the security forces who are supposed to combat crime and drug trafficking in sensitive neighbourhoods. The behaviour of these militias, formed by policemen, prison officers, firemen and security guards, is no better than the behaviour of the criminals they are meant to combat.

This extremely serious case follows other recent physical attacks on the media involving members of the police, especially in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In our view, these cases of abuse of authority require the appointment of a federal commission to investigate and suppress these militias in coordination with the state authorities.

The two O Dia journalists and their driver moved into the Batan favela in Realengo, a western suburb of Rio de Janeiro, at the beginning of May into order to research a story on these militias. According to O Dia, around 10 gunmen kidnapped the photographer and driver from a café on 14 May and initially tried to get residents to lynch them.

Their abductors then bundled them into a red Polo car with the registration number KPB 4592 and drove off with them. At around 9 p.m. the same day, they kidnapped the reporter from her home in the favela and drove off with her in the same Polo car. One of the militiamen told her: “You work for O Dia and you have been taken prisoner for ‘ideological lies’.”

The journalists were stripped for their equipment and material and they and their driver were subjected to barbaric mistreatment for seven hours in a secret prison. They were beaten, plastic bags were put over their heads, they were given electric shocks, they were subjected to Russian roulette and they were threatened with being tortured to death. Finally, at around 4 a.m., they were released. They are currently in a safe place where they are receiving medical and psychological treatment. The newspaper did not make the case public until 31 May, in order to facilitate the investigation being carried out by the Rio de Janeiro state public security authorities. The Rio de Janeiro city journalists’ union has called it “one of the most serious attacks on press freedom since the end of the military dictatorship.”

The Rio de Janeiro media describe these militias as a relatively new phenomenon. According to O Dia, militias of this kind are currently operating in a total of 78 localities and have been responsible for about 200 murders in the past three years. Their presence is a direct threat to the state guarantees enshrined in the 1988 federal constitution, and it is for this reason that Reporters Without Borders calls for far-reaching measures to be adopted against them.

We thank you in advance for giving this letter your careful attention.

Sincerely,

Robert Ménard
Secretary-General



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