Slain Brazilian's family wants answers

Since Alex Pereira found out that London's Metropolitan Police killed his cousin with eight bullets to the head and shoulder, his world has turned upside down.

    More questions than answers surround the killing

    Pereira returned on 29 July to his home town of Gonzaga, Minas Gerais, in Brazil, with the body of 27-year-old electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, killed at Stockwell Underground station in South London at 10am on 22 July by police who mistook him for a terrorism suspect in the wake of multiple blasts that killed 56 people.

    Prior to Pereira's trip home, he was busy arranging funeral details with Bindberg and Peirce, the legal firm that has taken on his case pro bono.

    Pereira and three other cousins of de Menezes - Alessandro Pereira, Vivien Figueiredo and Patricia da Silva - were in a state of shock, grief and anger when spoke to them in London before Pereira's departure.

    They want to know what happened, they want to see TV footage, they want answers and they want justice. They say the police changed their story.

    Figueiredo says the police told them de Menezes was wearing a denim jacket and had passed through the Tube barriers with his Travelcard, but earlier they had said he was wearing a bulky coat and had jumped the barriers.


    De Menezes thought he was simply being chased by a lot of men with guns who wanted to kill him, so he ran for his life, says Alex Pereira.

    De Menezes was shot eight times
    in the Stockwell station

    "My cousin was shot as a training exercise. They had to kill him to show the people of London that they were safe," he says.

    Messages of sympathy and solidarity poured in from all over the world. A spontaneous demonstration the day after the news broke brought London's Brazilian community together.

    Days later, the Brazilians marched on British intelligence headquarters.

    Within days the cousins, their friends and campaigners created the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign.

    Money is being raised, leaflets printed, demonstrations organised.

    Campaign for justice

    One supporter is Asad Rehman, chairman of the Newham Monitoring Project and former co-ordinator of the Stephen Lawrence campaign, whose racist murder in 1993 took four years to reach a public inquiry.

    A campaign has been started to
    protest against the killing

    "It's a difficult period for the family. We want to help emotionally, financially and politically. The campaign will aim to support the family and the legal team in the pursuit of justice. It will involve all the communities of London in support of the Menezes family who are very poor. We have been trying to raise money to help pay for the funeral," he says.

    "We want to find out what were the circumstances under which Jean was shot and to ensure that lessons of why and how are learnt by all. We want to bring these people to justice, not just the ones who pulled the trigger, but those who gave the orders and those who made the policy," says Rehman.

    Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce is helping the cousins through the legal processes. She is an expert on dealing with taking on the state in times of terrorism - and winning.

    She was the lawyer whose battle led to the release of the innocent men known as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. She also handles Guantanamo Bay cases.


    The inquest into the shooting of de Menezes was formally opened on 25 July and adjourned for 28 days. Meanwhile the new Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun its investigation.

    A memorial service was held at
    Westminster Cathedral

    By the end of the tumultuous week after de Menezes' death, Alessandro Pereira was the lone representative of the family remaining in London - the others had flown back with de Menezes' body but plan to return within a fortnight to begin their long fight.

    Pereira laid flowers at Stockwell station, exactly a week on from the killing, with a card that he had written in English and Portuguese: "We will never forget you."

    Memorial service

    That night, at a crowded interfaith memorial service at London's Westminster Cathedral, Pereira was flanked by Bianca Jagger, goodwill ambassador from the Council of Europe, and professor Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim intellectual.

    The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, spoke to the 1000-plus crowd.

    "In responding to the new threats in our midst, we must hold more firmly than ever to our laws, our freedoms and our principles. We must never allow ourselves to surrender to a logic of fear in which we have to resort to ever more drastic measures in order to combat terrorism," he says.

    Pereira made a short, emotional speech. "We have lost someone important. He liked it here and his dreams have been broken. We are very shocked both here and in Brazil. In the name of the family, we want justice."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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