Retired colonel tried over killing of journalist during Brazilian dictatorship

Forty years after journalist Luis Eduardo Merlino was arrested, tortured, and killed during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), retired Army Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra is being tried for his alleged role in the crime, Correio do Brasil reports.

On July 27, witnesses began to testify in the civil case against Ustra by Merlino’s family, Veja magazine reports. Among those speaking are former President and acting Senator José Sarney, who is speaking in defense of the retired officer.

“The moment seems even more important as, for the first time in court, people who were tortured or witnessed torture can testify,” said Angela Mendes, a historian and friend of the slain journalist, Rede Brasil Atual reports.

A ruling favorable to the Merlino family will not mean prison time for Ustra, as the case is being tried in civil court and they are simply asking for his alleged role in the torture to be recognized.

Agência Estado reports that the trial has reopened the debate over amnesty for government agents accused of engaging in human rights violations during the dictatorship.

Merlino worked for several newspapers, including Jornal da Tarde, Folha da Tarde, and the leftist paper Amanhã, and was an activist in the Communist Workers Party. Shortly before his death, at the age of 23, he was also a member of the Fourth International communist organization.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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