[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Police revise Sao Paulo toll down
A policeman holds a gun on a suspect at a checkpoint in Sao Paulo on 18 May
Human rights groups are suspicious of the revision
Police in Brazil have revised downwards the number of people they say were shot dead by officers in response to a wave of organised violence in Sao Paulo.

Human rights groups had heavily criticised police for killing 109 suspects in less than a week, after a crime network attacked police targets.

But amid pressure to provide details of the shootings, state authorities said only 79 gang suspects had been killed.

Human rights groups have voiced suspicions about the change.

Amid growing concerns about heavy-handed policing, the state government has changed its account of what happened last week.

For several days it had been saying more than 100 suspects were shot dead by officers in direct response to attacks on the police by the First Command of the Capital (PCC), an organised crime network many of whose leaders operate from jail.

But on Tuesday the total number of suspected gang members shot dead was revised down to 79.

Additional information from the state public security department included:

  • 62 were killed by officers acting in self-defence
  • 17 were killed in actions described as "preventive"
  • so far 49 of those killed known to have had a criminal record

The state government now says the other fatal shootings over the same period, which totalled about 30, were in response to routine crimes such as robberies.

'Massaging statistics'

The figures were changed 24 hours after public prosecutors demanded a full list of victims' names and the details of how they died.

The state government acknowledges that two dozen victims have yet to be identified.

The revised total has provoked further criticism.

Ariel de Castro Alves of the National Movement for Human Rights said the authorities appeared to be massaging the statistics to bring down the number of fatal shootings that could not be explained.

He said up to a third of those killed by the police appeared to have been innocent civilians.

In its annual report published on Tuesday, Amnesty International voiced concerns about the excessive use of force by the Brazilian police.

It said there were recurrent reports of killings by death squads made up of active and retired police officers.

Lawyers

The violence in Sao Paulo has been linked to attempts by the prison authorities to move some of the PCC's leaders to other prisons.

There have been allegations that lawyers for the PCC's main leader illegally bought audio recordings of a congressional hearing, in which secret details of prison transfers were discussed.

Lawyer Maria Cristina Rachado at the hearing in Brasilia
Lawyer Maria Cristina Rachado denies breaking any law

A sound technician has admitted selling the recordings for just under $90.

Speaking before a congressional hearing in Brasilia, lawyer Maria Cristina Rachado sobbed as she denied tipping off gang members.

"I didn't pass on information to anyone," she said. She said she had gone with the technician to copy the tape but never heard its contents and passed it to another lawyer, Sergio Wesley da Cunha.

Mr da Cunha said he believed the copy had been made legally and that he had not revealed its contents to anyone.


SEE ALSO:
Calm returns to shocked Sao Paulo
20 May 06 |  Americas
Police backlash lifts Brazil toll
16 May 06 |  Americas
Sao Paulo residents under siege
15 May 06 |  Americas
In pictures: Brazil violence
15 May 06 |  In Pictures
More die in fresh Brazil violence
14 May 06 |  Americas
Latin America: Crisis behind bars
16 Nov 05 |  Americas


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific