Former attorney-general to defend Collor

BRASILIA (Reuter) - The head of the impeachment proceedings against the suspended president of Brazil, Fernando Collor de Mello, yesterday named a former attorney-general to defend Mr Collor after he forced a delay in his Senate trial.

Supreme Court President Sydney Sanches named Inocencio Martires Coelho as the new defence lawyer and put off the trial for a week. Mr Sanches made the announcement as he presided over the Senate for the scheduled start of Mr Collor's trial on charges stemming from a multi-million-dollar influence-peddling ring. 'The president and his lawyers are not present. The trial is delayed until 29 December,' Mr Sanches said.

Mr Collor, 43, forced a delay in the trial late on Monday by saying in a statement he and his lawyers would not attend its start because a fair trial was impossible. Under impeachment rules, the trial could be put off only if Mr Collor and his lawyers did not appear.

The delay was the latest in a series of legal manoeuvres by which Mr Collor has sought to put off his trial and removal from power. He is widely expected to be convicted and replaced by his Vice-President, Itamar Franco.

Mr Martires told reporters that Mr Collor's defence was 'very difficult' and they had not yet met to discuss the case. 'I won't adopt any more delaying tactics. That's not my style,' said Mr Martires, who was attorney-general from 1981 to 1985.

Mr Sanches said the trial could only be put off now for a handful of reasons. They would be the death of Mr Collor's mother, who had a heart attack in September, or the kidnapping of witnesses. Another would be the dismissal of Mr Martires as Mr Collor's lawyer. But Mr Sanches said: 'The only person who can fire him is the president of the (impeachment) process and I'm not going to do that.'