Brazil probes ex-soldiers over dictatorship-era killing

The Brazilian attorney general`s office launched an investigation Monday into five retired soldiers accused of torturing and killing a congressman during the country`s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

The Brazilian attorney general`s office launched an investigation Monday into five retired soldiers accused of torturing and killing a congressman during the country`s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Brazil has never jailed any of those responsible for the military regime`s abuses, mainly because of a 1979 amnesty law, but a judge last week in a separate case paved the way for Monday`s action.

Rubens Paiva, a civil-engineer-turned-politician who was critical of the regime, was arrested at his home in January 1971 and taken to the offices of a military intelligence unit where he was tortured to death, the attorney general`s Rio de Janeiro office said on its website.

The five then-soldiers -- who are all still alive -- are accused of killing him, hiding his body and concocting a story that he had escaped.

Investigators said the accusations were based on documents found at the home of Paulo Malhaes, a retired colonel who was found dead last month after admitting to torturing political prisoners during the dictatorship.

Malhaes` death, still under investigation, came a month after he told Brazil`s National Truth Commission that Paiva`s body had been thrown into a river after he was tortured to death.

Civilian judge Ana Paula Vieira de Carvalho ruled last week in a separate case that crimes against humanity were not covered by the 1979 amnesty law and ordered five former army officers to stand trial over a 1981 bombing targeting a Labor Day concert.

The attorney general`s office echoed that argument in launching criminal proceedings against the five retired soldiers Monday.

"The crimes committed by these soldiers happened in the context of a systematic and generalized attack on the civilian population by a semi-clandestine system of political repression," the office said in a statement.

The junta`s agents were guilty of the "kidnap, torture and disappearance of enemies of the regime," and were therefore not covered by the amnesty, it said.

If convicted, the ex-soldiers face prison and could lose their pensions, as well as any military honors they have received.

The attorney general`s office said its investigations indicated the Brazilian army had been hiding information about its soldiers` roles in dictatorship-era crimes and that it was requesting a judicial order to make the military hand over the soldiers` complete files.

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