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Brazil arrests two over Amazon activist killings
by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Sept 19, 2011

Brazilian police have arrested two suspects over the killing in May of a husband and wife team of environmental activists who had been identifying illegal loggers, officials said Monday.

The police in the northern Amazon state of Para, one of the most restive regions in the country due to land disputes, arrested landowner Jose Rodrigues Moreira and his brother Lindonjonson Silva Rocha.

After evading capture for months, the two brothers were arrested on Sunday and a police spokesman said they were being transferred to a prison in the state capital Belem.

Officials accuse Rocha, acting on the orders of Rodrigues, of carrying out the killing of Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, 52, and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo da Silva, 51.

The pair had been working for CNS, an Amazon-focused non-governmental group set up by legendary environmental activist Chico Mendes who himself was killed in 1988.

They were stopped in their vehicle on May 24 by unknown gunmen, taken out and shot dead.

According to their organization, the pair had been receiving death threats since 2008 over their work to preserve the rainforests and prevent illegal deforestation.

The deaths were among the first in a series of 10 murders in the Amazon region, which has seen growing frictions over land conflicts.

Most of the deaths have been farmers or activists trying to defend the rainforest.

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