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Brazil state must pay family in police slaying

November 26, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro state must provide financial support to the family of a laborer whose disappearance in police custody last year became a cause celebre and a symbol of endemic police brutality, a Brazilian court has ruled.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of Rio civil court judges ordered the state to pay for psychological treatments as well as monthly stipends for the family of Amarildo de Souza, whose July 2013 disappearance sparked widespread anger and protests here.

Souza was last seen being taken to a police station in the Rocinha slum, and his body has never been found. While police initially insisted Souza walked out of the station, investigators allege he died while being tortured by police, who later spirited his body out and dumped it. More than two dozen officers have been charged with torture and forming a gang, among other charges.

In a statement released Tuesday, the court quoted a judge in the case as saying the officers’ actions deprived the family of their income. The decision stipulates that Souza’s widow and six other family members each receive payments equal to the country’s $289 monthly minimum wage. The state must also foot the family members’ medical and mental health bills.

Another Rio court had postponed a decision on whether the family was entitled to financial help, and the Souzas’ appeal resulted in the Nov. 11 decision.

Brazil’s police force has long had a tainted reputation, with law enforcement-related killings numbering in the hundreds every year in Rio state alone. Officers are commonly accused of shaking down people to boost their meager salaries and forming armed militias as brutal as the drug trafficking gangs they’re supposed to combat.

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