Two police arrested in Brazil over killing of black activist

  • Two police arrested in Brazil over killing of black activist

Two police arrested in Brazil over killing of black activist

Franco, an outspoken advocate for the rights of women, favela residents and the LGBT community, was killed in a drive-by shooting along with her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, in March 2018.

She was murdered on March 14, 2018 and until Tuesday's arrests, seemingly no progress had been made into the homicide investigation in nearly a year.

Marcelo Freixo, a state legislator and friend of Franco, told Globo TV the arrests were an important step, but the case "has not been resolved".

He was arrested at his luxury seaside residence in an upscale Rio neighborhood.

The suspects were identified as Ronnie Lessa, a 48-year-old retired officer, and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, 46, who was expelled from the force in 2015 for reasons authorities did not explain. Weapons and documents were recovered in the raid.

Vieira de Queiroz, 46, who was previously sacked from the military police, is believed to have driven the auto that followed Franco's own vehicle before the lethal drive-by shooting.

In the days before the shooting, Franco accused police of killing a young man and said police from a neighboring area had acted as a death squad. Investigators believe this may have been an attempt of tying up loose ends by the person or persons who ordered the hit on Marielle Franco.

"It is incontestable that Marielle Franco was summarily executed for her political activity in the defence of the causes she defended", prosecutors said in a statement cited by the Guardian.

Two police arrested in Brazil over killing of black activist

After Rio hosted the summer Olympics in 2016, violence increased between drug gangs as well as between these gangs and paramilitary police militia and security forces.

These are the first arrests in a case that shocked Brazil.

The investigation made little initial progress, to the frustration of human rights activists who have campaigned relentlessly to keep the case alive.

"There is no better way to honour Marielle Franco's incredible legacy than by committing to protect human rights defenders and ensuring they can safely continue their vital work".

But lawyer Walter Maierovitch told AFP that Tuesday's arrests were nothing but "a smokescreen".

Marches honoring Franco were planned for Thursday, the anniversary of the killings. Homage was paid to Franco during the Rio carnival by a samba school, Mangueira, which went on to be crowned champion of the parade.

Additionally, shortly after the suspects were arrested, a photo of Queiroz circulated on social media, wearing a police T-shirt, with his arm around Jair Bolsonaro. While only the bottom half of his face is visible, Bolsonaro didn't claim it wasn't him in the photo, instead merely stating, "I've had my picture taken with thousands of soldiers all over Brazil".