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Brazilian court jails police for murdering citizens in slums

Police investigator Aires Joaquim Soares, working virtually alone for eight years with reams of testimony and cabinets of archives, has unearthed evidence that justice in one of this state's largest towns is meted out not by the rap of a gavel but by the barrel of a gun.

A Rio de Janeiro criminal judge sent 10 military police to jail last week after their convictions on charges of assassinating dozens of citizens in the impoverished slums of Nova Iguacu, Rio State's seventh-largest city and one of the country's poorest.

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As many as 25 more civil and military police, along with civilians, have been implicated in the activities of ''death squads'' responsible for some 60 murders since last October.

Frontier-style justice has often been excused by the extreme violence in this sprawling region of 1.5 million. Last year there were more homicide cases is this region than in the capital city of Rio, which is five times its size.

But not all the victims were criminals. Detective Soares told the press here that many of the victims were workers or delinquent youths. The majority of assassinations, he said, ''were committed by contract, because of mere antipathy , or simply for the pleasure of killing.''

Rio's newly elected governor, Leonel Brizola, has pledged to clean up corruption and arbitrary use of violence by law officers.

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