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Jury trial for ex-mayor accused of ordering journalist's murder in 2003

(RSF/IFEX) - The Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ), one of Brazil's highest federal courts, ruled on 4 December 2008 that Maria Arivan de Holanda Lucena, the former mayor of Limoeiro do Norte, in the northeastern state of Ceará, should be tried before an ordinary court for the 2003 murder of Nicanor Linhares Batista, the owner of Radio Vale do Jaguaribe, a radio station based in the town.

Arivan and her husband, federal judge José Maria de Oliveira Lucena, are jointly accused of hiring the two hit-men who gunned down Linhares outside the radio station on 30 June 2003. When Lucena was formally charged on 10 March 2008 by the STJ, which has the power to try judges, Arivan asked to be tried with him before the same court. The court's refusal means she will be tried by a jury.

"Five years after we wrote to President Lula on 25 July 2003 to request a thorough investigation, we hope the real masterminds of this murder will finally be tried," Reporters Without Borders said. "Their conviction will be a clear signal of a readiness to combat the impunity which public officials too often think they enjoy."

An outspoken critic of Arivan, Linhares had received death threats. His murder caused an outcry and the case was taken before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. A total of nine people have been charged in connection with the murder.

Updates the Linhares Batista case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/82203

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