Rio de Janeiro police scour slums for suspects in girl's gang rape

Rio de Janeiro's police seek further evidence to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of gang-raping a 16-year-old girl.
Brazilians protest in front of the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro on May 27, 2016, against a gang-rape of a 16-year-old girl.
Brazilians protest in front of the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro on May 27, 2016, against a gang-rape of a 16-year-old girl. PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro police swarmed two slums on Sunday searching for suspects in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old Brazilian girl who said more than 30 men assaulted her, a case that shocked the nation set to host the Olympics in August.

More than 70 officers used helicopters, armored vehicles and dogs to enter the slums, but there was no word if any suspects had been captured in the operation.

In the five days since a video of the rape was posted by an alleged perpetrator on Twitter and set off a wave of outrage, police have brought in five persons for questioning and made no arrests.

Police said there are all the indications that the gang rape occurred on May 21, but they could not yet confirm how many took part.

 

Over the weekend, women and men marched in several cities to demand justice and decry sexism in Brazilian culture. A woman on the Supreme Court lashed out at a pervasive macho culture that permits such barbaric acts. "Each and every woman is a victim," Justice Carmen Lucia said in a written statement.

 

"Our bodies are tormented, our souls are trashed. That is what these criminals think and do, and they must quickly be held accountable."

The case adds to mounting concerns about security in Rio and political breakdown in Brazil as the city and country prepare for South America's first Olympics starting August 5.

Crime has fallen in recent years, but there has been an increase in homicides in recent months as Rio's police department had its budget slashed amid an economic downturn.

The country's elected President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended for allegedly breaking budget laws, and her impeachment trial in the Senate will likely play out as the Games are held. Brazil's worst economic crisis since the 1930s has compounded the political chaos.

On top of all that, an outbreak of the Zika virus has prompted health warnings and even led top global health experts to advise that the Games be postponed or moved.

The reported rape came to light in a video of the nude, semi-conscious youth, with a few men brazenly insulting the girl, showing their faces, and one man heard saying, "more than 30 impregnated her!" The Twitter account where the video was posted has since been suspended.

Both Rousseff, the first woman elected president in Brazil, and interim President Michel Temer repudiated the act.

'FEEL LIKE PIECE OF TRASH'

In an interview with Rio's O Globo newspaper, the alleged victim said she wants to see justice done so that no other person would have to go through a brutal assault like that she says she suffered.

"Today I feel like a piece of trash," she told the newspaper. "I hope that no other person ever feels this way."

Eloisa Samy, one of the girl's lawyers, has asked that a lead investigator on the case, Alessandro Thiers, be removed because he made the alleged victim feel uncomfortable during questioning. Samy told TV Globo in an interview that Thiers asked the girl if she had participated in group sex parties.

Samy was not immediately available to provide further details. A state judge is considering her request.

The police said in statement their investigation was being carried out in an impartial manner and saw nothing wrong with the line of questioning.

The Rio de Janeiro state prosecutor's office said in a statement it was in favor of removing Thiers from the case.