5 accused of obstructing murder case of Brazilian politician

Outgoing Brazilian Attorney General Raquel Dodge is requesting that five people be charged with obstructing justice in the case of a leftist city councilwoman gunned down over a year ago

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazil's departing attorney general requested on Tuesday that five people be charged with obstruction of justice during the investigation into the 2018 killing of a leftist city councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro.

Acting a day before handing over the reins to her successor, Attorney General Raquel Dodge accused two court officials, two police agents and a lawyer of interfering with the inquiry into Marielle Franco's death.

One of the former court officials, Domingos Brazão, was named as the slaying's possible mastermind in a police report that was leaked to Brazilian media last March. He has denied that.

In a case sent to the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice, Dodge also recommended that federal agents take over the case to avoid further interference and identify those who ordered the killings.

The attorney general's office alleged in a statement that Brazão, a former adviser at Rio's audit court, and one of his aides tried to mislead state police officers. The two were helped by a federal police officer, a state police officer and a lawyer in spreading false information so Brazão would not be identified as the mastermind of the killing, the statement alleged.

The Associated Press was not able to contact Brazão's lawyer but he has denied the allegation in local media.

Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were shot to death in central Rio de Janeiro on March 14, 2018, returning from an event focused on empowering young black women.

In March, authorities arrested Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, on suspicion of having carried out the attack. Lawyers for both men denied their involvement.

Franco was a prominent activist for Afro-Brazilian and LGBT rights and an outspoken critic of Rio's violent police forces and paramilitary groups, but a year and a half after the assassination, the motive remains unclear.

For a long time, the name most frequently speculated on as a possible mastermind had been Rio councilman Marcello Siciliano, who has been accused of ties to paramilitary groups that control large swaths of western Rio de Janeiro. Siciliano has testified several times but has not been charged in the crime.

In an interview with AP earlier this year, he strongly denied any involvement in Franco's killing. He called her a "friend."

At a news conference, Dodge said the alleged obstruction scheme run by Brazão was aimed at putting blame on Siciliano as the mastermind.

Her office cited the federal police report leaked in March, based on testimony, searches and private messages, that pointed to Brazão as the "prime suspect" as the mastermind.