3 men charged in Brazil rainforest killings of Indigenous expert, U.K. journalist

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Public prosecutors have charged three individuals with the June murder of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the remote western reaches of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, according to a statement.

All are local dwellers, and their motive was that Pereira asked Phillips to photograph them when they passed by in a boat, the statement said. The area is a hot spot for illegal fishing and poaching.

Phillips and Pereira had met with Indigenous people near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia, and were travelling along the Itaquai River back to the city of Atalaia do Norte when they were attacked. Their disappearance generated intense international outcry and pressure for action and, with the help of local Indigenous people, authorities located their bodies hidden in the forest.

Prosecutors presented their charges Thursday, outlining that two of the men — Amarildo da Costa Oliveira and Jefferson da Silva Lima — have confessed to the crime, while witness testimony indicates Oseney da Costa de Oliveira also participated, according to the statement.

Two women and a man embrace and console each other.
Alessandra Sampaio, left, wife of Dom Phillips, is shown on June 26 in Nireroi, embracing her in-laws Sian and Gareth Phillips, the siblings of the slain journalist. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Pereira had previous confrontations with fishermen when seizing their catch and had received multiple threats. He carried a gun with him, and had left the federal Indigenous affairs agency in order to teach local Indigenous people how to patrol their land and gather geo-tagged photographic evidence of criminality.

On the day they were murdered, Pereira was transporting such evidence to authorities in Atalaia do Norte, and he was shot three times.

Phillips, who was conducting research for a book entitled How to Save the Amazon, was killed “only because of being with Bruno, in order to ensure impunity for the prior crime,” the prosecutors’ statement said.

There has been speculation in the Brazilian press that their murder may have been ordered by the ringleader of an illegal fishing network. Police earlier this month arrested a fourth man when he presented false documents, believing he may have some involvement, but no charges have been filed to this point.

Day 610:38Land defenders all over the world are coming under attack: Global Witness

Brazilian police now say a man has confessed to the murder of British reporter Dom Phillips and Brazilian land rights activist Bruno Pereira, both of whom failed to return from an investigative trip into a remote part of the Amazon. Global Witness is a not-for-profit group that has been tracking the killings of land defenders for the past 10 years. Marina Comandulli, a campaigner for Global Witness’ land and environmental defenders team, says the attacks and killings are happening regularly all over the world and often go unreported.



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