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Cop Convicted in Brazil Slayings

August 26, 1998

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ A former policeman was found guilty Tuesday of murder and attempted murder for his role in the 1993 killings of eight street kids and sentenced to 204 years in jail.

Marcos Aurelio Dias Alcantara, 30, the last defendant in the crime that highlighted the scope of police brutality in Latin America’s biggest country, showed no emotion when he heard the verdict and sentences and kept his head bowed as he was led away.

The sentence is largely symbolic. Under Brazilian law, he cannot serve more than 30 years in jail for the slayings and five other convictions for attempted murder.

Human rights advocates say shopkeepers in high-crime districts routinely pay policemen to kill children suspected of stealing. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 children, most of them homeless or runaways, live on the streets of this city of 6 million.

Prosecutors said Dias was among the gunmen who attacked dozens of children sleeping on the sidewalk near Candelaria Cathedral on July 23, 1993. Six were killed there, and two others were chased to the waterfront and killed.

A survivor, Wagner dos Santos, identified the policemen as the shooters. He now lives in Switzerland for his protection and was not present at the trial.

Dias, who recanted a 1996 confession and pleaded innocent to all the charges, refused to answer questions during the two-day trial, claiming his right to remain silent.

His attorney, Alberto Louvera said his client had been ``psychologically coerced into confessing.″ He said he would appeal.

Dias was the sixth defendant to stand trial for the killings. One ex-policeman was convicted of murder and another of attempted murder. Three defendants were acquitted. Another man was killed before coming to trial.

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