First of over 30 suspects arrested over gang rape of Brazilian teen

Rio de Janeiro's police seek further evidence to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of gang-raping a 16-year-old girl.
Brazilians have protested against the crime, and Acting President Michel Temer has called a security meeting to discuss it.
Brazilians have protested against the crime, and Acting President Michel Temer has called a security meeting to discuss it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazilian police say they have arrested the first of more than 30 suspects wanted over the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl whose attackers posted a graphic video online showing the aftermath of their brutal attack.

The arrest came as some 70 military police fanned out across a slum west of Rio de Janeiro in a huge operation to apprehend four suspects who had been identified as taking part in the assault that has shocked Brazil.

The detained suspect, who was not identified, was being interrogated, said the police on Saturday, vowing to bring the other alleged attackers to justice. They are suspected of assaulting the victim on May 21 in Rio de Janeiro, a city stricken by violent crime that will host the Olympic Games in August.

Social media networks erupted with outrage after graphic photos and videos were posted on Twitter last Wednesday featuring the unconscious, naked girl on a bed and the apparent attackers bragging that she had been raped by more than 30 men. Several men also joked online about the attack.

The authorities said the teenager had been raped in a shanty town on the west side of Rio de Janeiro as she was visiting her boyfriend, the Associated Press reported. The girl told the police that she was briefly alone with him but remembered nothing until she woke up naked the next day in another building among dozens of men who had guns.

The police said they did not know if the boyfriend was one of the attackers, though he was being sought. Officials said they had been unable to confirm how many men might have taken part. Rio police chief Fernando Veloso said that if the images had not been posted online, the authorities might not have learnt of the attack.

The video has horrified a country not unused to violent crime, and highlighted its deep-rooted problem of violence against women.

The UN's women's rights agency condemned the case, along with another recent alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in the north-eastern state of Piaui.

"Apart from the fact that these are young women, these barbaric cases are similar in that the teenagers were lured by their attackers in premeditated plots," UN Women in Brazil spokesman Nadine Gasman said last Thursday. "They were violently attacked in a context of illegal drug use."

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Rio last Friday night waving signs saying "machismo kills" and "no means no".

In Sao Paulo, protesters erected a mural with messages such as "my body is not yours", and "I like to wear necklines, that's not an invitation to rape me".

Acting President Michel Temer promised to create a federal police unit to address crimes against women, the Associated Press reported.

"It's absurd that in the 21st century we have to live with barbarous crimes like this," said Mr Temer, who also called an emergency meeting of the security ministers for each of Brazil's states to consider gender-related crimes.

The girl, in comments to the O Globo newspaper, said: "It's the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying, 'It's her fault. She was using scanty clothes.' I want people to know that it is not the woman's fault. You can't blame a robbery victim for being robbed."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'First of over 30 suspects arrested over gang rape of Brazilian teen'. Print Edition | Subscribe