Brazilian suspect held for 30 days in case of missing British journalist
State police detectives involved in the investigation have told Reuters they are focusing on poachers and illegal fisherman in the area, who clashed often with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the local reservation. Costa's lawyers and family have said he fished legally on the river and denied he had any role in the men's disappearance.
A Brazilian judge ordered a suspect in the disappearance of a British journalist in the Amazon rainforest to be held for another 30 days while police investigate whether he is involved, a lawyer for a local indigenous organization said.
The suspect, a fisherman called Amarildo da Costa, known locally as "Pelado," was arrested on Tuesday and charged with illegal possession of restricted ammunition. State Judge Jacinta Silva dos Santos said the proceedings are under seal and she could not comment on whether other audiences are planned. Police have said Costa was one of the last people to see freelance journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira on Sunday, when they went missing after visiting the fisherman's riverside community of Sao Gabriel.
Eliesio Morubo, the lawyer for the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), said the judge agreed to keep the fisherman jailed for 30 days because the case involved a possible "heinous crime" such as murder and hiding bodies. State police detectives involved in the investigation have told Reuters they are focusing on poachers and illegal fisherman in the area, who clashed often with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the local reservation.
Costa's lawyers and family have said he fished legally on the river and denied he had any role in the men's disappearance. The state public defender's office confirmed Costa was being kept in police custody while authorities investigate whether he was involved in the case.
Witnesses said they last saw Phillips, a freelance journalist who has written for the Guardian and the Washington Post, on Sunday. His companion Pereira, an expert on local tribes, had been a senior official with government indigenous agency Funai. The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area on the border between Peru and Colombia that is home to the world's largest number of uncontacted indigenous people. The wild and lawless region has lured cocaine-smuggling gangs, along with illegal loggers, miners and hunters.
The pair's disappearance has echoed globally, with Brazilian icons from soccer great Pele to singer Caetano Veloso joining politicians, environmentalists and human rights activists in urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search for them. After criticism that the government had dragged its feet in the crucial first days of the case, Bolsonaro told the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on Friday that the Brazilian armed forces were working "tirelessly" to find the two men.
The streets of Atalaia do Norte, the largest riverside town near where the men were last seen, have grown busy in recent days with soldiers in camouflaged trucks, along with the distant sound of helicopters absent earlier this week. By Friday, some 150 soldiers had been deployed via riverboats to hunt for the missing men and interview locals.
Indigenous search teams have been looking for the pair since Sunday, Marubo said. A Reuters witness saw a boat with police and firefighters conducting dives in a murky vegetated area along the edge of the Itacoaí River and preparing a canoe to search the shallows.
Police have questioned several fishermen as witnesses, but so far have only arrested Costa on the weapons charges. Investigators are analyzing Costa's boat for traces of genetic material and finger prints, police said on Thursday.
Authorities issued photos of a blood spot on a plastic cover found in the boat, but a detective involved in the case told Reuters it could take weeks to determine if it is human blood.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)