Manoel Leal de Oliveira

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On January 14, 1998, Manoel Leal de Oliveira, publisher and editor of A Região, the largest weekly in southern Bahía state at the time, was shot and killed by assailants who had followed him as he was driving home, according his son Marcel, who spoke to CPJ on the phone and wrote about the killing in A Região.

Leal was shot six times outside of his home in Itabuna, according to Marcel.

Leal was known for his critical reporting on local authorities, and he frequently denounced the mayor of Itabuna and a civil police marshal in the Bahía capital, Salvador, for corruption, according to a report by Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI).

At the time he was killed, CPJ urged President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to launch an investigation by federal police, since local journalists feared that local authorities may have targeted Leal.

In 2003, a Bahía court found civil police officer Monzar Castro Brasil guilty of firing the shots that killed Leal and sentenced him to 18 years in prison, Marcel told CPJ. Another suspect was acquitted due to lack of evidence, he added. 

On May 22, 2019, a jury at a Salvador court found Marcone Rodrigues Sarmento guilty of driving the car used by Leal’s attackers and sentenced him to six years in prison, according to news reports. Local news website Bahía Noticias reported that the presiding judge removed two years from Rodrigues’s six-year sentence because he had already served two years in prison at the time of sentencing.

The public prosecutor in charge of the Rodrigues case, Cássio Marcelo de Melo, told Brazilian news portal G1 that his office was appealing the decision and asking for a longer sentence.

Rodrigues was acquitted of Leal’s murder during a previous trial in 2005, but the Bahía Court of Justice annulled the acquittal on appeal, according to the investigative journalism report.