BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) – BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) – A Brazilian sect leader and five others accused of kidnapping boys in a remote Amazon town, cutting off their genitals and sacrificially killing them has gone on trial.
The trial, which comes 11 years after the police investigation began, will be a test of Brazil’s ability to bring justice to isolated areas where the legal system may be under the sway of powerful locals.
It could also help unearth similar killings elsewhere.
“This is a very important case, even if it comes 11 years afterward,” the government’s Human Rights Secretary Nilmario Miranda told Reuters on Wednesday from the court house in the northeastern town of Belem. “We have to celebrate the fact that there is a trial.”
Valentina de Andrade, the suspected leader of a sect known as Superior Universal Alignment, two doctors, two security guards and the son of a businessman in the town of Altamira are charged with murder, attempted murder and torture.
They are accused of attacking five boys, three of whom died and two of whom were mutilated but escaped. The two surviving boys are expected to testify at the trial.
According to the families of the victims, Andrade is said to have been contacted by a medium who told her that boys born after 1981 were possessed by the devil.
A group representing the families says there were many more victims — 19 poor young boys in total aged between 8 and 13 who were horribly tortured or killed between 1989 and 1993. Some had eyes gouged out, wrists slit and sexual organs cut out.
Of the 19 victims, six died, five were never found and the rest escaped, some after being drugged, bound and mutilated.
Legal experts helping the victims’ families have worked for years to bring the suspects to trial. Police dropped many of the cases because of lack of evidence or incompetence, according to Flavio Pachalski, a spokesman for the families.
Saying justice could not be done in remote Altamira, the defence pushed to move the trial to Para state capital Belem, which was granted earlier this year. The trial could go on for weeks.