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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 01:48 GMT 02:48 UK

World: Americas

Brazil chainsaw murder suspect loses immunity

By Brazil Correspondent Stephen Cviic

The lower house of the Brazilian congress has voted to expel one of its members, Hildebrando Pascoal, who has been accused of murder, torture and drug trafficking.

The decision, which was reached by a large majority, means that Mr Pascoal loses his parliamentary immunity and may be arrested.

Brazilian politicians are sometimes reluctant to take action against one of their own tribe but on this occasion there was never any doubt about the outcome of the vote.

The evidence against Hildebrando Pascoal is extremely strong and has received massive attention in the Brazilian media. Over the past few months a congressional inquiry has heard from several witnesses that Mr Pascoal is a key figure in the drugs trade in the remote Amazonian state of Acre, on the border with Bolivia and Peru..

[ image: Mr Pascoal denies murder and torture]
Mr Pascoal denies murder and torture
One witness said he had accompanied Mr Pascoal across the border to Bolivia, where the congressman picked up nearly 1,000kg of cocaine. The same witness said that under orders from his boss he had helped to kill 10 people.

Another witness said Mr Pascoal had committed murder with his own bare hands, chopping off a man's arms and legs with a chain saw before administering a final gunshot.

Mr Pascoal has denied most of the accusations against him but before the vote appeared to be engaged in a desperate fight to save his skin. His lawyer says that he went so far as to ask for political asylum in nine different embassies - requests which appear to have been refused.

Mr Pascoal did not turn up at the chamber of deputies for the vote but he is believed to be still in Brasilia. His arrest may be imminent.

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