Brazilian police blamed for brutal Indian murders
BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) -- Indian leaders in Brazil's remote Northeast
accused police on Friday of the brutal murder of two fellow tribal members,
who officers allegedly tortured and decapitated before setting their bodies ablaze
in a failed bid to prevent identification.
The charred corpses of Nilson Felix, 16, and his father Jose de No Felix,
the Truka Indian tribe were found earlier this week outside the city of Petrolina,
nearly 430 miles (700 km) from Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state.
"I helped identify Jose. His skull was not completely burned, and he had
crooked teeth," tribal leader Ailson Truka told Reuters after news of the murders
broke in national media on Friday. "Neighbors saw the police do it... They
covered their bodies with tires to make the fire hotter."
Police in Pernambuco said they opened an investigation but refused to offer
details, disclosing only that they had taken testimony from five civilian witnesses
and 15 officers.
The deaths are the latest in a growing series of confrontations between
and invading farmers and police, who have raided the reservation to investigate
drug trafficking in the area.
According to members of the Truka tribe, police raided their reservation
January 4 -- shooting Nilson in the arm and the chest. Wounded, Nilson made
his way back to the village to find his father, who drove him to a local hospital
When hospital staff told Nilson's father they did not have the training
to treat his
gunshot wounds, an ambulance driver and a nurse took the two on the main
highway toward the hospital in Petrolina -- only to run into a police blockade.
"The driver told us there were about 50 police officers on the road, and
them were wearing masks. They took Nilson and his father out of the car,
saying they would bring them to the hospital," Ailson said. "No one heard from
The corpses were found by family members four days later. The arms and
of the corpses were broken, and their severed heads lay alongside their bodies.
Human rights groups are demanding federal authorities intervene in the
investigation, saying they don't believe Pernambuco police will identify and
prosecute fellow officers.
"We are worried that if the federal government does not step in here, this
wind up another forgotten killing, another case of police impunity," said Jose
Viera, of the Catholic Church-based Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI).
The 4,000-member Truka tribe, who live on a Puerto Rico-sized reservation
the middle of Brazil's most notorious marijuana producing region, have had a
number of recent run-ins with police.
Last year, two 26 year-olds were allegedly murdered by police, with one
front of his wife and two daughters.
According Viera, drug trafficking has served as the main excuse for police
raid the reservation -- allegedly at the service of invading ranchers, who usurp
plots of Indian land.
After the tribe evicted 64 farmers from Truka eight months ago, police
a major raid -- dropping tear gas from helicopters while officers moved in by
land to arrest and, according to CIMI, subsequently torture six tribal leaders,
allegedly repeatedly striking their genitalia with sticks.
"What we want is for people outside of here to know what is happening to
We're hoping someone will help," Ailson said.
Copyright 2001 Reuters.