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Journalist's convicted murderer openly dealing drugs in Rio

(RSF/IFEX) - 10 August 2010 - Eliseu Felício de Souza, also known as "O Zeu", a gang member who has been on the run for the past three years after being convicted for his role in the 2002 murder of TV Globo reporter Tim Lopes, is openly operating as drug dealer in a northern district of Rio de Janeiro, according to a new TV Globo report. He took advantage of a "semi-release" programme to escape.

The report broadcast by TV Globo, a national station, shows "O Zeu" armed and selling crack in broad daylight in a slum called Morro de Alemão. The Rio de Janeiro state authorities, who offered a reward for information leading to his arrest, have received hundreds of calls from residents reporting his presence (video link: ).

"It is incomprehensible that the Rio state authorities are tolerating a situation that is an insult to Tim Lopes' memory," Reporters Without Borders said. "The report on Eliseu Felício de Souza's 'new life' must surely mean they cannot continue to take no action in response to this scandal. It was shocking that those responsible for such a barbaric murder were put on a semi-release programme so quickly. We think the sentence reduction decisions should be reviewed," RSF added.

Sentenced to 23 years and six months in prison for his part in Lopes' murder, "O Zeu" was put on a semi-release programme after five years in jail. He never returned from his first release under the programme.

Lopes was using a hidden camera to investigate the corruption of minors in the Rio de Janeiro slum of Vila Cruzeiro on the night of 2 June 2002 when he was kidnapped, tortured and killed. His burned body was found several days later. Seven gang members were given sentences ranging from 23 to 28 years in prison for his murder. "O Zeu" was alleged to have bought the gasoline used to burn his body.

Another of the convicted gang members, Angelo Ferreira da Silva, also used the semi-release programme to escape last May. He later surrendered to the authorities.

Given the barbaric manner in which Lopes was tortured and killed, Reporters Without Borders is astounded that several of his convicted murderers were allowed out of prison just five years after their arrest.

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