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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 July, 2003, 07:42 GMT 08:42 UK
Brazil landless leader arrested
Members of the Landless Rural Workers Movement shout during a rally at a camp in Eunapolis, April 2000
Activists want land redistributed to the poor
Police in Brazil have arrested a leader of the country's landless movement.

Jose Rainha Junior, 42, one of the top leaders of the Landless Workers' Movement (MST), was detained on Friday in Teodoro Sampaio, Sao Paulo state, where he was testifying in a court hearing.

"Rainha was arrested for organising the 2000 occupation of a ranch in which several landless farmers stole cattle and destroyed crops," police inspector Agenor de Oliveira told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Rainha was taken to a high security prison in the town of Presidente Venceslau, his wife Diolinda de Souza said.

The MST has in recent months stepped up its policy of encouraging landless peasants and farmers to invade farms and impose blockades in order to pressure the government to speed up promised land reforms.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has urged patience, but the MST says its members are too hungry to wait.

The vast majority of arable land in Brazil is owned by a small number of landowners, and the MST is pushing for land to be redistributed to poor peasants.

It also wants to take action against landlords who hire militias to protect their farms.

Mr Rainha is one of the most radical of the movement's leaders.

He was convicted the double murder of a farmer and a policeman in 1989, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.

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