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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 04:29 GMT 05:29 UK

World: Americas

Brazilian deputy 'ran death squads'

By Brazil Correspondent Stephen Cviic

A member of the Brazilian congress has asked for political asylum at nine foreign embassies after being accused of drug-trafficking and mass murder.

A lawyer for the politician, Hildebrando Pascoal, said several countries had accepted his request, which comes as his colleagues prepare to vote on Wednesday on whether to lift his parliamentary immunity.

[ image: Mr Pascoal denies murder and torture]
Mr Pascoal denies murder and torture
Brazilian politicians do not have a good reputation among the general public, but the usual accusations of corruption and influence peddling seem relatively insignificant when set beside the alleged activities of Mr Pascoal, who represents the remote Amazonian state of Acre.

A congressional inquiry has compiled a lengthy report, in which Mr Pascoal is accused, among other things, of involvement in a drug cartel, of commanding death squads and of personally chopping off a man's arms and legs with a chainsaw.

One witness said he had helped Mr Pascoal to kill at least 60 people.

Mr Pascoal denies allegations that he ran a number of death squads.


Under Brazilian law, federal deputies are immune from prosecution even for common crimes.

But if the chamber of deputies votes to expel Mr Pascoal, the way will be open for his arrest.

Mr Pascoal appears to believe he has a chance of obtaining asylum abroad, but the Brazilian Attorney General, Geraldo Brindeiro, said he hoped the countries concerned would bear in mind the seriousness of his alleged crimes.

The state of Acre lies on the border with Bolivia and Peru and has long been known as a transit route for cocaine on its way to the big cities of the south-east.

The latest investigations suggest that the drugs trade in Acre involves a large number of powerful people.

A report by the federal police points to the involvement of two former state governors, three judges, several top businessmen and more than 100 policemen.

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