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Police investigating Amazon disappearance analysing human matter

admin | June 11, 2022
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Police investigating the disappearance of a British journalist and Indigenous official in the Amazon have said they are analysing human matter found in the Itaquai River, near Atalaia do Norte’s port. It comes as family members of the sole person to be arrested over their disappearance said he was innocent and alleged that authorities were trying to force a confession. Freelance journalist Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were last seen on Sunday morning in the Javari Valley, Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory, which sits in an isolated area bordering Peru and Colombia. The two men were in the Sao Rafael community. They were returning by boat to the nearby city of Atalaia do Norte but never arrived. Images of British journalist Dom Phillips, left, and Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira (Eraldo Peres/AP) The claims of the family of fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also known as Pelado, were the latest development in a disappearance that has garnered international attention, a search involving several agencies and criticism of Brazilian authorities for an allegedly slow response. The family’s claims, made to The Associated Press, also come a day after witnesses told the AP things about de Oliveira that the family denies. De Oliveira was arrested on Tuesday at his home in the Sao Gabriel riverine community, close to where the pair went missing on Sunday. He was initially arrested for illegal gun possession, but police have since said he was now being considered a suspect in the disappearance and was being held at a police station in Atalaia do Norte. Osenei da Costa de Oliveira, 41, also a fisherman, said on Friday he had visited his brother in jail. “He told me he was at his house when they handcuffed him,” said Osenei da Costa de Oliveira, speaking outside the police station where his brother is being held. “Then they put him on a boat under the sun and began to travel to Atalaia do Norte. When they reached the Curupira rivulet, they put him on another boat. Then they beat him, tortured him, waterboarded him, stepped on his leg and pepper-sprayed his face. They also drugged him twice, but I don’t know what they used.” “They wanted him to confess but he’s innocent,” Osenei da Costa de Oliveira added. The public security secretariat of Amazonas state, which oversees local police, said in a statement it will not comment on the family’s accusations because the investigation into the disappearance was now being handled by the Federal Police. The mother of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, Maria de Fatima da Costa, said she was at the Atalaia do Norte port when her son arrived with police. He was taken from the boat wearing a hood, could barely walk on his own and was soaking wet, she said. “I told the police he was not a criminal to be treated like that,” she told the AP. She also said that blood that police have said was found in her son’s boat was likely from a pig he had killed a few days before being arrested. Authorities have said the blood was being analysed at a lab. Members of Indigenous group of watchmen, who were with Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips on Saturday, the day before they disappeared, told the AP on Thursday that de Oliveira and two other men had brandished guns at them. Federal Police arrive to Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state (Edmar Barros/AP) Paulo Marubo, the president of a Javari Valley association of Indigenous people, Univaja, also told the AP that Mr Phillips photographed the men at the time. The suspect’s family also disputed the claim of brandishing weapons. Father-in-law Francisco Conceicao de Freitas said he and de Oliveira were on a fishing boat together and that his son-in-law waved an oar, not a rifle, at the group that included Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira. The family said they had not been illegally fishing inside nearby Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which has become a frequented spot in the region for illegal fishing and hunting. The family also said de Oliveira does not have a criminal record and his only previous brush with law enforcement was once being detained for a few hours under an unfounded suspicion he was transporting drugs. Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira had been speaking with people on the outskirts of the protected area, but never entered it, according to multiple people whom the AP interviewed in the area. The Amazonas state police have long been accused of extrajudicial killings and unlawful raids. Since Gov Wilson Lima took office in 2019, three massacres involving local officers have taken place. One of them, in October 2020, ended in 17 deaths in capital Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon. Police denied wrongdoing in all three cases. Mr Phillips, 57, has reported from Brazil for more than a decade and has most recently been working on a book about preservation of the Amazon. Mr Pereira has long operated in Javari Valley for the Brazilian Indigenous affairs agency. He oversaw their regional office and the coordination of isolated Indigenous groups before going on leave to help local Indigenous people defend themselves against illegal fishermen and poachers.

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