By Maria Hendrischke
The trial of 11 persons accused of killing Brazilian journalist and blogger Décio Sá began on Feb. 3 in the Brazilian state of Maranhão – almost two years after the crime took place, Brazilian news organization G1 reported.
The first two suspects to faced a jury on Monday were Jhonathan de Sousa Silva, the confessed hit man who shot Sá and businessman Fábio Brasil, and Marcos Bruno Silva de Oliveira, De Sousa Silva’s driver in the night of the killing.
De Sousa Silva claims that a criminal group – allegedly formed around entrepreneur José Raimundo Alves Chaves Júnior as well as other businessmen and public officials – engaged him to kill Sá, EBC reported. Brazilian police have stated that the group had connections to at least 41 town halls in Maranhão between 2009 and 2012, G1 said. The police is currently investigating the group for allegedly embezzling around 1 million reais (more than $400,000) in federal resources.
Sá was killed on April 23, 2012 in front of a bar in São Luís, capital of Maranhão. He was shot with a gun that is exclusively used by Brazilian police officers.
Sa covered politics for newspaper O Estado do Maranhão and published one of the region’s most frequented blogs, where he openly denounced several political and public figures. Authorities believe that the gang of businessmen feared the impact of Sá’s blog posts concerning the murder of Fábio Brasil and ordered the killing of the journalist.
2012 was one of the most lethal years for journalists in Brazil. Besides Sá, six other journalists were killed in the first half of that year, which made Brazil one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the International News Safety Institute. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that in 2012 Brazil had the highest rate of killings directly related to practicing journalism in the Americas. The organization cited three cases, among them the killing of Décio Sá.
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.