Seven Brazilian Indians in Prison Since December for Protesting

On December 27, 2005, eight Indians were arrested in Chapecó, state of Santa Catarina, in the south of Brazil, following a decision made by a Brazilian federal court.

They were arrested eight days after a demonstration for non-indigenous occupants of the Toldo Chimbangue and Toldo Pinhal lands to continue to be removed from them.

Chief Lauri Alves was released on December 31 by a decision of a federal court, after proving that he had not taken part in the demonstration.

The other seven people continue in prison and waiting for a decision of the Higher Court of Justice in relation to a request filed by Funai (Fundação Nacional do índio – National Indian Foundation) for their release.

The Brazilian federal court of appeals of the 4th region refused to grant an habeas corpus for them. Funai also appealed to the Supreme Court (STF), but on January 3 justice Ellen Gracie rejected its request because she did not recognize the competence of the Supreme Court to deal with the case.

The arbitrariness of the arrests is such, according to Brazilian activists, that, of the eight people who were arrested, two are not even mentioned in the proceedings. Alceu de Oliveira was arrested because he is known as Quixé, but the name of the person mentioned in the proceedings is João Gonçalves, who also has the nickname Quixé.

Instead of an indigenous person called Wilson Antunes, another indigenous individual called Adilson Ferreira was arrested. According to information provided by the Funai office in Chapecó, there are doubts about whether a person called Wilson Antunes exists or not.

Chief Idalino Fernandes was accused of leading the indigenous community in an action to block the access to a farm during the demonstration staged on December 19, 2005.

However, he was not taking part in the demonstration when it began, as he was in the regional office of Funai in Chapecó and only went to the place where it was being held after being informed about it.

Another accusation is that the indigenous people allegedly stole two firearms from the farmers. But the weapons in question were taken from the hands of the farmers by the indigenous people because they were being threatened with them and they gave them right after this action to police officers, who registered the seizure of the weapons in official records.

The indigenous leaders under the police investigation have also been accused of having invaded private property and of having assaulted its occupants.

The Indianist Missionary Council believes this is the old and recurrent strategy of criminalizing the people who lead the struggle of indigenous peoples to ensure their right to dignity, justice and life.

Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council – www.cimi.org.br

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