Two suspects have been arrested for allegedly taking part in the killing of Amazon activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva. The men, who are brothers, were arrested after police stormed their remote jungle camp on Sunday in Brazilian state of Para. A third man remains at large.
According to officials, a landowner Jose Moreira ordered the assassination of the da Silvas after they had spoken out against Moreira evicting three families from his property. Allegedly Moreira hired his brother, Lindon Johnson, and another man, Alberto Lopes do Nascimento, to gun down the activist couple. After carrying out the killed, the murderers cut off an ear from each victim to prove they had been slain, according to local police investigator, Marcos Augusto Cruz, who spoke to Al Jazeera.
Police arrested both Moreira and Johnson on Sunday, while Nascimento has to-date evaded capture.
An outspoken activist in a region rife with violence and forest loss, José da Silva had received countless death threats for over a decade. Not long before his death, he publicly warned that he could be killed at any time.
“I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment…because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers, and that is why they think I cannot exist,” da Silva said in a TED Talks last November, adding “but my fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.”
Still, da Silva was refused protection by Brazilian officials.
The da Silvas worked as a community leaders in an Amazon reserve that sold sustainably harvested forest products.
Suspects named for assassination of husband and wife activists in Brazil
(07/21/2011) Brazilian authorities have fingered three men for the killing of environmental activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, in May. The grisly murders received international attention, since José da Silva was a well known activist against illegal logging in Pará, a state in Brazil that is rife with deforestation and violence.
Killing in the name of deforestation: Amazon activist and wife assassinated
(05/24/2011) José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down last night in an ambush near their home in the Brazilian state of Pará. Da Silva was known as a community leader and an outspoken critic of deforestation in the region. Police believe the da Silvas were killed by hired assassins because both victims had an ear cut off, which is a common token for hired gunmen to prove their victims had been slain, according to local police investigator, Marcos Augusto Cruz, who spoke to Al Jazeera. Suspicion immediately fell on illegal loggers linked to the charcoal trade that supplies pig iron smelters in the region.