Brazil landowner jailed for 115 years over landless deaths

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Landless Workers Movement (MST) supports labourers in disputes with landowners

A Brazilian landowner has been given a 115-year prison term for the killing of five landless farm workers in the south eastern state of Minas Gerais, in 2004.

Adriano Chafik Luedy, and his employee Washington Agostinho da Silva, who was sentenced to 97 years, were found guilty over the "Felisburgo massacre".

Eight other landless workers were injured in the incident in which 27 shelters and a school were burned down.

Workers from the landless movement were occupying an area claimed by Chafik.

Chafik and Silva have been told they are to remain free while a court considers their appeal.

"The defence is obeying but is not agreeing with the sentence," the defendants' lawyer, Sergio Habib, told newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

'Land grabbing'

Another 12 defendants are awaiting trial in connection with the attack, which took place in November, 2004, and became known as the "Felisburgo massacre".

The killings took place after a group of landless farm workers connected to Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (MST) invaded an area of the Nova Alegria farm, in the region of the Jequitinhonha valley in Minas Gerais state.

They set up a camp on a piece of land that had allegedly been seized by Chafik's family years before, but later repossessed by the state.

The landowner, however, is still fighting a court battle over the ownership of the area.

In 2004, a group of armed men attacked the camp.

Violent disputes over land are common in Brazil.

Correspondents say that remote rural communities frequently complain Brazil's security forces are rarely present to intervene in rows between powerful land owners and landless farmers.

Brazil's notorious Eldorado de Carajas massacre in 1996, a confrontation between MST landless workers and police, ended with 19 protesters dead and more than 60 injured.

Only two of the more than 100 policemen involved in the operation have been sentenced.

They were jailed in 2012 after 16 years of trials and appeals.

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