SAO PAULO: A Brazilian court sentenced a doctor to 77 years in prison for the ritual mutilation and killing of young boys in a remote Amazon town over a decade ago, a prosecutor in the case said on Thursday.
Anisio Ferreira de Souza received 57 years for the gruesome killings of three boys and 20 more years for the attempted murder of two other boys who escaped from their captors after having their sexual organs removed.
Thirteen years after the first killings, the trial is being closely followed as a test of Brazil’s ability to bring justice to remote areas where the law may be under the control of the local elite.
“The success of this trial shows that the impunity of years past is over – things in Brazil are changing,” said Clodomir Araujo, one of the prosecutors trying the case.
Local news broadcasts showed the aged Souza sitting hunched before judge Ronaldo Valle. As he read the sentence, the courtroom erupted into applause.
Araujo added that the two victims who had escaped after being mutilated were critical witnesses in the case.
Another doctor involved in the killings, Sergio Brandao, will be sentenced on Monday. Two other men were sentenced last week to a total 92 years in jail for the murders and mutilations.
The fifth defendant, sect leader Valentina de Andrade, is set to be sentenced on September 22.
Earlier on Thursday, Andrade was jailed after she tried to flee the country.
Valle ordered Andrade’s arrest after police found she had tried to catch a flight to neighbouring Argentina on Tuesday. She had checked in but had turned around after finding she had to go through passport control, which is carried out by federal police in Brazil.
Valle said this was evidence that she might flee before her sentencing, court officials said. She was handcuffed and escorted from the court by police in the Amazon town of Belem and taken to a local women’s jail.
The prosecution says she is the leader of a sect known as Superior Universal Alignment, which was founded in Argentina.
A group representing the victims says Andrade believes she was contacted by a medium who told her boys born after 1981 were possessed by the devil.
A group representing the victims’ families says there were many more victims – 19 in total. They were aged between 8 and 13 and were tortured or killed between 1989 and 1993 in the Amazon town of Altamira. Some had their eyes gouged out, wrists slit and sexual organs cut off.