By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — The first indictment hearing of twenty-four policemen and Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) commander Edson Santos implicated in the disappearance of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer from Rocinha who vanished last July, took place in Rio de Janeiro’s Justice Court Thursday afternoon.
The policemen have been accused of torture, concealing a body, procedural fraud and conspiracy in what has now become a world-famous case, taken up by international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, in a country often riddled with reports of police brutality and impunity.
Judge Daniela Alvarez Prado first heard delegate Rivaldo Barbosa, director of the Civil Police Homicide Division, who took to the witness stand for three hours, to explain his investigation of the bricklayer’s disappearance in great detail. Barbosa said the investigation failed to perform under the command and expertise of the UPP, where Amarildo was allegedly tortured.
Barbosa also said that the initial investigation indicated that Amarildo’s assistant was killed by drug traffickers and that much of the police’s testimony had been contradictory. Discovered through phone taps, investigators realized that Major Santos, then responsible for the UPP unit in Rocinha, forced the policemen aware of the case to tell the same version.
Next on the witness stand was deputy of the Homicide Division, Ellen Souto. According to her, there is technical evidence that Amarildo did not leave the UPP unit out of his own free will. Souto also said that Major Santos and other false witnesses helped police to keep the version that Amarildo was killed by drug traffickers. In this first court session, there were nineteen witnesses for prosecution and 200 in defense, according to the lawyer defending Major Santos, Saul Salles. Further hearings are scheduled to hear all of the defendants.
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