RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Gunmen yesterday ambushed and killed a Brazilian judge known for taking a hard line against criminals, including corrupt police officers.
The early-morning slaying of Patricia Lourival Acioli in Niteroi, across a bay from Rio de Janeiro, prompted the Supreme Court to demand a swift investigation by federal police.
“Cowardly crimes against magistrates are an attack on the independence of the judiciary, the state and Brazilian democracy,” Supreme Court President Cezar Peluso said in a statement.
“The preservation of the rule of law in our country demands a rapid investigation of the facts and a rigorous punishment of those responsible for this barbarous act.”
A group of gunmen fired at least 16 bullets into the judge’s car as she arrived at her house, according to Brazilian media reports.
The 47-year-old mother of three had been on a death list found in possession of a jailed militia leader this year, the Globo website quoted investigators as saying.
Militias made up of off-duty police and firefighters have expanded in Rio’s lawless slums in recent years, ousting drug gangs in turf battles over the lucrative supply of services such as cable
TV and cooking gas.
“Patricia received threats for at least five years. She was considered a hard-line judge, always giving the maximum penalty,” her cousin, Humberto Nascimento, was quoted as saying by Globo.
Rio has been trying to tackle its reputation for violent crime as it prepares to co-host the soccer World Cup in 2014 and host the Olympic Games in 2016.