Freedom for Rafael
NGOs defend the innocence of homeless person in protest
Conectas today endorsed a petition calling for the courts to release from prison Rafael Braga Vieira, a homeless man arrested in Rio de Janeiro for having bleach and disinfectant on his person during a demonstration on the city. Rafael was arrested with three other people – all released – and he is now the only person detained during the wave of protests of June 2013 who is still in prison.
In spite of a technical report from the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police’s Bomb Squad stating that the chances of the products found on Rafael being used to make a Molotov cocktail were “negligible”, Judge
Guilherme Schilling Pollo Duarte, of the 32nd Criminal Court, sentenced the homeless man to five years and ten months in prison for possession of an explosive device.
“The case of Rafael Braga Vieira does not only arouse our indignation because of his arbitrary detention, but also because we consider it emblematic of a deliberate strategy of sending a message to discourage demonstrators, a symbol of repression in the midst of democracy, abuse of power, violence and injustice against the most vulnerable among us, who are used as scapegoats for the class of untouchables on the streets,” reads the document that will be delivered to the State Court of Rio de Janeiro and the National Justice Council.
Read the full petition below:
PETITION BY HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND MOVEMENTS FOR THE FREEDOM OF THE YOUNG MAN RAFAEL BRAGA VIEIRA
The month of June 2013 is etched in the memory of those who participated in the country’s intense demonstrations. With a cry long stifled in the throats of the Brazilian people, more than a million individuals took to the streets across the country, every day of the month, in a demonstration of indignation sparked by discontent over increased public transport fares, despite the poor quality of public transport services in Brazil.
What first appeared to be a “momentary rebelliousness” by discontented youths grew at an alarming rate and took hold of the country, but it also exposed a perverse side of the State. Unable to control the continuing growth of the protests and under the pretext of restoring order, the scale of the police repression that ensued was enough to stain the image of Brazil around the world, as images emerged of ordinary people being violently assaulted, corralled in the city streets and exposed to all manner of brutality.
It was in this context, on June 20, in the middle of what was considered the largest demonstration in
Rio de Janeiro, that the 26-year-old black homeless man Rafael Braga Vieira, who was known in the neighborhood where he made a living collecting aluminum cans for recycling, was detained. At the time of his arrest, Rafael Braga Vieira was carrying a plastic bottle containing bleach and another plastic bottle containing disinfectant. He was tried and convicted because the court concluded that he was carrying materials for making “Molotov cocktail” explosives.
The case of Rafael Braga Vieira does not only arouse our indignation because of his arbitrary detention, but also because we consider it emblematic of a deliberate strategy of sending a message to discourage demonstrators, a symbol of repression in the midst of democracy, abuse of power, violence and injustice against the most vulnerable among us, who are used as scapegoats for the class of untouchables on the streets. About the case, we note that:
1. Rafael Braga Vieira was arrested with three other demonstrators, who were later released. Without access to any type of defense, only the young homeless man remained in detention;
2. Of all the people who demonstrated in the month of June in Rio de Janeiro, a number that exceeded half a million, it is strange that the only person to be convicted was a young, black homeless man without any ideological identity;
3. The technical report from the Civil Police’s Bomb Squad states that the two bottles found on him had “negligible chances of functioning as a Molotov cocktail”.
4. The report also draws attention to the fact that the bottles found on Rafael Braga Vieira were plastic, not glass, meaning they could not be used to make a Molotov cocktail;
We also draw attention to the fact that Rafael Braga Vieira fits perfectly the profile of the people who are most frequently killed by institutional violence and who overcrowd our prisons, which are veritable sites of inhumanity, as demonstrated by the recent exposure of the conditions at the Pedrinhas prison, in the state of Maranhão, a genuine depository for “killable” people.
Given the above, we address this petition to the Brazilian Judiciary, the State Court of Rio de Janeiro, the National Justice Council and whoever can really intervene and make justice prevail. We hereby express our request for a REVIEW OF THE CASE and for the FREEDOM FOR RAFAEL BRAGA VIEIRA.