Brazilian police arrest new suspect in killing of Marielle Franco

Justice minister says Brazil is close to solving ‘horrendous’ 2018 slaying of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman.

An image of Marielle Franco is projected on a building in Sao Paulo, Brazil
An image of Marielle Franco is projected onto a building in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 14, 2023, during a tribute to mark the fifth anniversary of her killing [File: Amanda Perobelli/Reuters]

Authorities in Brazil have arrested another suspect in connection with the 2018 murder of popular Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, the justice minister confirmed.

A preventive arrest warrant and seven search and seizure warrants were served, Justice Minister Flavio Dino said during a press conference in the capital, Brasilia, on Monday.

The man arrested was named as former firefighter Maxwell Simoes Correia, and he is suspected of hiding the weapons used by the ex-police suspects who are on trial over the shooting, Dino said.

“We are close to solving this horrendous crime,” he said.

The killing of Franco, a Black, openly gay and progressive councilwoman born in a poor Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood, sent shock waves across Brazil and spurred mass protests calling for accountability and justice.

On the five-year anniversary of the killing in March, Amnesty International urged Brazil’s left-wing president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to establish an “international mechanism of independent experts” to support the local authorities investigating the case.

“Over the past five years, six different police chiefs, eleven prosecutors, four police secretaries, three governors, one federal ombudsman, two attorneys general and three presidents of the republic have been in charge of the investigations, and we still have no answers,” Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, said in a statement at the time.

“Who ordered the killing of Marielle Franco and [her driver] Anderson Gomes, and why? It is unacceptable that, after half a decade, none of the authorities that have gone through this case have been able to solve it,” Werneck said.

In March 2019, two former police officers, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio de Queiroz, were indicted on charges of shooting Franco and Gomes. They remain in federal prison custody.

Dino said on Monday that Queiroz, who is accused of driving the car used in the crime, made a plea bargain with police and prosecutors and said he was an accessory to the crime and confirmed that Lessa was involved in the murder.

The minister added that information provided by Queiroz will help identify others involved in the crime and more police operations can be expected in the coming weeks.

A rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party, Franco was an outspoken critic of police killings of poor Rio residents. Investigators believe her killing to be a political assassination carried out by paid hit men.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters