Brazilian ex-policeman, ex-fireman detained over activist's murder

A mural in Rio de Janeiro covered in messages denouncing the murder of Marielle Franco

Authorities have arrested two people suspected of involvement in the murder of a high-profile Brazilian politician and black rights activist, Rio de Janeiro police said Tuesday. Marielle Franco was murdered on March 14 in what appeared to be a professional hit in the center of Rio. The two men are former military police officer Alan Nogueira, known by the nickname "Crazy Puppy," and former fireman Luiz Claudio Barbosa. They were arrested for the murders of a policeman and ex-policeman in February 2017 thanks to information provided by a protected witness, who said they were also involved in Franco's murder. The witness has been working with investigators looking into the politician's murder for several weeks and pointed the finger at the two detainees. The pair will be "questioned over the Marielle Franco case as well as the murders for which they were arrested," homicide division commissioner Willians Batista told Globo Television. Brazilian media have speculated that the two men were inside the vehicle from which the fatal shots that killed Franco and her driver were fired. "It's too early to say if they were in the car, but they have been accused of taking part in the murder in some way," Batista said. A rare black city council member, Franco had become a prominent critic of police violence in Rio and what she said was the targeting of blacks in the city's poverty-stricken favela neighborhoods. Colleagues say the leftist politician was killed because she had angered police and underground paramilitary groups known as militias. Security Minister Raul Jungmann has said that militias were behind the murder. Reports said Nogueira and Barbosa were members of a militia. After four months of investigations that had led nowhere, human rights groups such as Amnesty International had called for an independent inquiry. Rio councilor Marcello Siciliano has been questioned about the murder too but denied any involvement, saying he "never had political conflicts" with Franco.