Rio de Janeiro, December 20, 2019 — Brazilian authorities must quickly resume the trial of the alleged killers of radio journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira and ensure that justice is served without further delays, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Judge Jesseir Coelho de Alcântara announced on December 17 he was withdrawing himself from the trial of the suspected perpetrators of the 2012 killing, according to a report by Brazilian news website G1.
Alcântara, who presides over the Fourth Jury Court in Goiânia, the capital of Goiás state in central Brazil, said he could not proceed because the court lacked the necessary resources for the trial, according to that report.
“Brazilian authorities must ensure that the trial of those suspected of murdering journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira moves forward in a timely manner,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Seven years after his killing, a lack of adequate facilities in one city’s court is no excuse for delays to achieving justice in this case.”
Unidentified individuals shot and killed Valério Luiz de Oliveira on July 5, 2012, outside his offices at Radio Jornal in Goiânia, where he hosted a sports program, according to CPJ research.
The Goiás state public prosecutor charged five men for the killing in 2013; in the intervening years, the trial was repeatedly postponed as one defendant disavowed his confession, another fled to Europe to escape prosecution, and the trial faced procedural delays, according to a report by the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism and news reports.
Alcântara previously raised the issue of the court’s resources in an April 1 letter stating that the Court of Justice headquarters in Goiânia had inadequate security for the trial, lacked metal detectors, and did not have enough rooms to separate the accused, according to reports from the time. The trial is estimated to include at least 48 witnesses, according to G1.
In October, citing insufficient space to try all five defendants at once, Alcântara said that the trials of suspected shooter Ademá Figuerêdo Aguiar, the three suspected middlemen, and the alleged mastermind, Maurício Borges de Sampaio, would be held separately and would begin in February 2020, according to news reports.
In a statement sent to CPJ via email, the Goiás Court of Justice said the court had decided in April to renovate its facilities to accommodate the large trial, and said judges had approved a plan to expand the facilities and have them ready by February.
In his December 17 announcement, Alcântara stated that he had done “everything I could” to ensure the trial would proceed, but said that the he needed to withdraw due to “obstacles out of my reach,” according to a report by local news website Mais Goiás.
The Goiás Court of Justice now needs to assign a new judge to the case, and will then reschedule the trials, according to Mais Goiás.