Five influential members of Brazilian society went on trial this week for the suspected torture, castration and murder of five children, aged eight to 13, in satanic rites over a decade ago.
Two mutilated survivors testified at the trial.
Prosecutors charged that 19 children used in black magic rituals at Altamira, in Brazil’s Amazon region, between 1989 and 1993. Five had been tortured, some castrated, before being killed.
The witnesses were among five survivors of the rituals who managed to escape, but not before also having their genitalia mutilated.
They were aged between eight and 13 at the time.
Brazil’s Special Secretary for Human Rights Nilmario Miranda said the trial had “symbolic” significance because two doctors, two former policeman and a businessman were involved.
The trial opened yesterday in Belem do Para, some 688 kilometres east of Altamira, because the defendants are influential members of Altamira society.
The five defendants, including Valentina de Andrade, 75, the leader of the Superior Universal Alignment (LUS) sect, are alleged to have used their influence in efforts to stop the case from going to trial, intimidate victims and make evidence disappear.
One of the witnesses to testify, Wandiclei Pinheiro, now aged 22, was nine years old at the time of the crimes, and managed to flee from his captors. He was expected to identify former police officer Carlos Alberto Santos as a participant in the ritual.
Although he has been given federal police protection, Pinheiro said he had been threatened with death a month ago if he testified.
The lawyer for the victims’ families, Clodomir Araujo, said Thursday that Pinheiro’s testimony would be “fundamental” in the jury’s decision.
Defendants have been split into two groups: those accused of collaborating, including Santos and shopkeeper Amailton Gomes, and the three main suspects.
Miranda warned overnight that justice in the case would be only “partial” since only one of seven probes launched in the past 13 years had shed any light on the case.
Two physicians who allegedly participated in the castrations, Cesio Brandao and Anisio de Souza, and the leader of the group, are to be tried separately.
The cult believes that children born after 1981 are evil and must be expunged. Only adherents to the group are to escape the pending destruction of the earth by escaping in a spacecraft, it believes.