March 16, 2019 / 1:16 AM / in 4 days

Former police officers to face trial in murder of Rio councilwoman

A woman attends a mass marking the first anniversary of activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco's murder, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Two former police officers were indicted on Friday on charges of killing Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, and will face trial in a crime that shocked Brazilians and human rights activists around the world.

Ronnie Lessa and Elcio de Queiroz were arrested on Tuesday, a few days before the first anniversary of the deaths of Franco, a black, openly gay, and progressive councilwoman born in a poor Rio neighborhood, and her driver, Anderson Gomes.

Judge Gustavo Kalil, from Rio’s fourth criminal court, ordered a freeze on any assets held by the men with an eye to safeguarding compensation for relatives of the victims if the two are convicted.

Franco was a vocal critic of the Rio police for their often-deadly gang-busting operations in the city’s slums, and took stands against the paramilitary militias made up of current and former police.

Prosecutors accuse the two former police of being linked to the militias in Rio, and of having received 200,000 reais ($52,459.02) for the killings.

Investigators said Lessa fired the shots that killed Franco and Gomes on March 14, 2018, while Queiroz drove the car that ambushed them.

Lessa and Queiroz have opted to remain silent in the initial court hearings. Lawyers for both say they did not commit the crimes.

($1 = 3.8125 reais)

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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