A Brazilian bricklayer who disappeared more than two months ago was tortured and killed by police in Rio de Janeiro for information about drug dealers, according to prosecutors.
Lawyers claim father-of-six Amarildo de Souza, who was epileptic, died after being interrogated by officers from the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) in Rocinha favela after he was last seen on 14 July. His body has yet to be found.
The claims emerged after a Civil Police inquiry concluded that 10 officers, including the former commander of the UPP, Major Edson Santos, should be charged over his disappearance, which sparked a high-profile campaign by Amarildo’s family and friends.
Homero Freitas, from the office of the Public Prosecutor, told Brazilian website G1: “The conclusion is more logical in the sense that Amarildo was a great source of information.
“Amarildo would have certainly been able to tell police where the drugs and weapons were hidden. So, he was taken from the control centre to the UPP unit to provide this type of information and was never seen again.”
Lawyers for the man’s family deny that he had any involvement with drugs. Neighbours and friends said he earned his nickname “Bull” for his strength as a worker.
He was last seen getting into a police car outside a restaurant in Rocinha to be taken for questioning.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the car used by the former UPP commander was being examined by experts for traces of blood. The results were not expected until the end of the month. Meanwhile, tests on a body found in the west of Rio state have so far been inconclusive. “I only have one certainty: Amarildo entered the UPP in Rocinha but he didn’t leave it,” Mr Freitas added.
An MP in Rio has requested that a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry be set up to investigate Amarildo’s disappearance and other similar cases. “There are many disappearances in Rio with the same features as Amarildo and the committee can help in these investigations,” Geraldo Pudim told the daily newspaper O Dia.
Last week, Amnesty International issued a call for urgent action. Yesterday, Atila Roque, of Amnesty International Brazil, said: “The indictment of the police officers is an important step in the fight against impunity for crimes committed by state agents and a remarkable victory for the mobilisation of society around this case.”