Indigenous group denounces release of suspect in Amazon murder of British journalist, expert

A child holds a flower, during a protest to demand justice for journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who were murdered in the Amazon, in Brasilia, Brazil June 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

(Reuters) - An indigenous group from the area of the Amazon rainforest where British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered in June on Thursday deplored the release of one of the suspects in the killing.

The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja) said in a statement that the man's release pointed to the negligence of Brazilian authorities in prosecuting the case and their failure to contain organized crime in the region.

A federal judge in Amazonas state decided on Wednesday to grant provisional freedom to Laurimar Lopes Alves, known as Caboclo, a fishermen accused of being involved in the killing of Phillips and Pereira.

The judge said Alves had been under provisional arrest for three months and could not be held any longer without "strong reasons" to detain him.

Alves was arrested by the Federal Police in August. Local media reported that he was suspected of involvement in hiding the bodies of Phillips and Pereira, whose remains were found buried in rainforest after a fisherman confessed to police.

Federal Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the judge's decision.

"It's been 5 months since Bruno and Dom died. Authorities responsible for resolving the case have been so slow! It seems that the investigations are being carried out in an ineffective way or have simply been stopped," Univaja said.

Phillips, a freelancer who wrote for the Guardian, the Washington Post and other well-known publications, was on a reporting trip with Pereira in the Javari Valley, a remote jungle area on the Peruvian border that is home to the world's largest number of uncontacted indigenous people as well as cocaine-smuggling gangs, and illegal hunters and fishermen.

They disappeared on June 5, and Brazilian authorities found their bodies several days later. At that time, the police issued seven arrest warrants.

The Amazonas court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Carolina Pulice and Anthony Boadle; and Leslie Adler)

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