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LATIN AMERICA | 15-08-2019 16:09

Criminal trial ordered for Brazil ex-sergeant over regime-era crimes

Antonio Waneir Pinheiro de Lima, a former sergeant in the Brazilian military, is accused of kidnapping, imprisoning and sexually assaulting a historian in the early 1970s.

A Brazilian court on Wednesday for the first time ordered a criminal trial for a former military official accused of dictatorship-era crimes, saying an amnesty law was not applicable in cases of rape or torture.

Antonio Waneir Pinheiro de Lima, who was a sergeant during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, is accused of kidnapping, imprisoning and sexually assaulting a historian in the early 1970s. 

The offences allegedly took place in the so-called "House of Death" in Petropolis, a city near Rio de Janeiro.

At least 18 people were murdered in the house, which was used to torture opponents of the regime, prosecutors allege.

A lower criminal court had previously rejected the case, citing Brazil's 1979 amnesty law that prevents the prosecution of military officials for military regime-era crimes.

But in a majority decision, an appeals court on Wednesday ruled that rape and torture were crimes against humanity and therefore were not protected by the amnesty.

A 2014 report published by a truth commission found that 434 assassinations were carried out in the years after the 1964 coup that established the 21-year dictatorship, as well as uncounted arbitrary detentions and cases of torture of political opponents.

The court's decision comes after President Jair Bolsonaro, an unabashed admirer of the dictatorship, under which he served for a time as an army captain, caused outrage by branding it a "glorious" time in Brazilian history. 

He recently appointed two members of the armed forces to the commission investigating deaths and disappearances during the dictatorship, after questioning its credibility.

That came after he taunted the head of the Brazilian Bar Association over his father, who disappeared during army rule, saying he had information on what had happened to him.

– AFP

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