A Brazilian NGO based mostly within the Amazon has denied that 4 volunteer firefighters arrested by police had deliberately began fires within the rainforest.
The lads had been a part of the Alter do Chão brigade, which helped battle enormous fires this 12 months within the northern Pará state.
They had been arrested after police raided the places of work of Projeto Saúde e Alegria (PSA), or Well being and Happiness Challenge, which has hyperlinks to the brigade.
Rights teams and critics claimed the operation was politically motivated.
Earlier this 12 months, 1000’s of fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro at one level prompt non-governmental organisations had been setting off the blazes, with out offering any proof.
In September, fires within the Alter do Chão area, a preferred vacationer space, reportedly destroyed an space equal to 1,600 soccer pitches and took 4 days to be managed by volunteers and firefighters.
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On Tuesday, 10 closely armed officers raided the headquarters of PSA and seized computer systems and paperwork, in keeping with the group.
PSA is a widely known, award-winning NGO based in 1987 which additionally carries out social and medical programmes to distant communities within the Amazon.
Police mentioned the operation was carried out as a part of an investigation that pointed that NGOs, together with the Alter do Chão brigade, had induced the fires aimed toward producing donations. The 4 males had “privileged data and pictures of the fires” that had been suspicious, they mentioned.
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“They filmed, revealed after which had been referred to as on by the federal government to assist management the identical fires that they induced,” José Humberto Melo Jr, an officer concerned within the raid, mentioned in a press release. “They at all times claimed to be stunned upon arriving on the scene, however there was no different logical risk.”
Nevertheless, native media reported that the cellphone conversations included within the police investigation didn’t show the suspects had been behind the blazes or that they’d dedicated any crime.
In a press release on Tuesday, the brigade – which was arrange final 12 months and likewise had its places of work raided – mentioned it was “in shock” with the arrests and that “it was positive… the innocence of the brigade and its members [would] be recognised”.
“We had been all taken abruptly… There’s nothing that justifies [the arrests],” PSA founder Eugenio Scannavino informed the BBC. “The accusation is absurd. We consider that is an motion to bolster this narrative that NGOs began fires and are stealing cash.”
On Monday, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported that protected areas in Alter do Chão had been being destroyed due to actual property developments, and that federal prosecutors suspected that one of many fires had been began by land grabbers.
Rights group Amnesty Worldwide mentioned there was “no transparency or official details about the procedures adopted by the authorities” over the arrests, saying they had been a “cause for concern”. Greenpeace condemned the arrests as “an try to criminalise social actions and NGOs that work to protect the Amazon.”
On Wednesday, a decide in Pará refused bail to the 4 males arrested.