The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.61/No.33           September 28, 1997 
Framed Land Activist Fights To Move Trial In Brazil  

MIAMI - For the third time in as many weeks, the Brazilian courts have refused to decide whether or not to move the trial of José Rainha Jr. A central leader of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), Rainha is facing 26 years in jail after his June conviction on frame-up charges of murder in the deaths of a landlord and a cop who attacked a land takeover by 100 peasant families in 1989. His retrial is set for September 29 in the town of Pedro Canário, where his original trial was held.

In his first trial videotapes, press photos, and eyewitnesses confirmed that Rainha was hundreds of miles away when the deaths took place. Despite this and the lack of even one prosecution witness at the June trial, Rainha was found guilty. Defenders of Rainha in Brazil have pointed out that the jury pool in that trial was largely made up of landowners and their backers who have organized a campaign of violence against the MST.

According to leaders of the MST, of the three judges who were supposed to rule September 16 on the site of the retrial one was in favor of moving it, one was against, and the third, undecided for several days, finally said he wasn't competent to rule.

The MST is asking the court to move the trial from Pedro Canário in the state of Espirito Santo to Vitoria, the capital of that state. If the trial is moved it is expected to also be postponed for several months. If not it will go ahead on September 29.

The MST reported that messages demanding that Rainha's retrial be moved have been sent from throughout Brazil and other countries as well. In the United States, supporters of the fight for justice for Rainha sent a number of messages to Dr. Wellington da Costa City, the judge who had the deciding vote on September 16.

Among those who wrote were Father Angelo Amaral of the St. James Catholic Church in Newark, New Jersey; Andrés Gómez, the head of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, a group of Cuban-Americans who support the Cuban revolution; Jack Lieberman, an activist in the Miami Jewish community; and others including unionists and university professors.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend José Rainha in Miami sent a letter signed by several supporters of the committee. It stated, "We have recently organized a committee in the United States to get out the truth about the unjust trial and sentencing of José Rainha. Most disturbing of all is the fact that the jury pool in the trial held in Pedro Canário was largely made up of landowners and their supporters and even included relatives of those Mr. Rainha was accused of killing."

"It is obvious to us that José Rainha will not receive a fair retrial if this is also held in Pedro Canário. We insist that the retrial be moved to Vitoria where justice can better be served."

The committee pledged to "redouble our efforts to expose this further attack on the rights of Mr. Rainha and all those who support civil and democratic rights."

For more information on the Rainha defense case and to send messages of support contact: Ad Hoc Committee to Defend José Rainha, c/o UNITE, 1501 NW 29th Street, Miami, Florida 33142. Phone: (305)868-5674. Fax: (305) 633-7478.  
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