Who’s Rafael Braga Vieira?

Rafael Braga Vieira is a black and poor young man, who, until June of 2013, worked collecting material for recycling in downtown streets of Rio de Janeiro. He lived on the streets in order to save money on his way back home – he didn’t return home everyday in Vila Cruzeiro (North zone), where he lived with his parents, brothers and sisters. However, on June 20, Rafael Braga’s routine changed.

On that day, in Rio de Janeiro, was happening the largest of the demonstrations that occurred in 2013 against the increase of bus tickets. During the dispersion of the crowd, in Lavradio Street, Lapa, Rafael Braga, 25 years old, was arrested when he arrived at an abandoned mansion, where he used to sleep. Rafael did not participate the demonstration, and carried with him two different cleaning products, both on plastic bottles. At the police station, the policemen who seized him presented both bottles already open, with cloths. He was accused of carrying explosive material – Molotov cocktails.

Rafael spent 5 months in Japeri Penitentiary Complex awaiting trial, being defended by a public defender. On September 23, an application for revocation of Rafael’s preventive custody was made by his lawyer and dismissed by the Judge of the 32nd Criminal Court after 4 days, only.

On December 2, 2013, he was sentenced to a 5 years and 10 months imprisonment and was transferred to Bangu 5 a few days later, even after the Civil Police bomb squad report stated that Rafael was carrying cleaning products that had low chances to function as a molotov cocktail.

Rafael Braga’s condemnation had an impact, even if small, on newspaper articles, and, from then on, activists, militants and collectives became aware that he was still imprisoned. Thus, Rafael’s defense was assumed by the Institute of Human Rights Defenders (Instituto dos Defensores de Direitos Humanos – DDH). At the same time, some groups and activists of social movements began to articulate to help and publicize Rafael’s case in the independent media.

After assuming the case, DDH Office filed an appeal against the sentence. On August 26 2014, the Third Criminal Chamber of the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro (TJRJ) decided to keep Rafael in jail, reducing his sentence in only four months. On that day, a “walking hours” demonstration occurred in front of TJRJ, from the 25th until the time that the decision came out on the 26th.

In October 2014, there was a progression of Rafael’s regime from closed to semi-open, when he could leave the prison to work. After several efforts, DDH got a job for him at a law firm. In November 2014, Rafael was punished after one of his lawyers posted online a photo of him in front of a “pixação” on a wall that read: “You only look from the left to the right, while the State crushes you from top to bottom”. The lawyer took Rafael’s picture on the way back to the prison after a day’s work. Because of this, he spent about 1 month in SOLITARY. After suffering some penalties and losing the right to the semi-open regime, he gained progression to an open regime on December 1 2015, and left prison, being monitored by an electronic anklet.

So he returned home, to Cascatinha, Vila Cruzeiro, with his family. On January 12 2016, Rafael, by his mother’s, request left by morning to go to the bakery, when some UPP (Peacemaker Police Unity) military police officers (PMs) approached him on his way. The PMs said he was involved with drug trafficking and asked him to give them information and that he admitted he was involved. He was beaten on the way to the police station and threatened with rape in case he did not take part in the dealing association. The PMs accused Rafael with a fake blatant kit containing 0.6g of marijuana, 9.3g of cocaine and one firework. Since then, Rafael answers for: drug dealing; association with the illegal drug trade; and collaboration with drug traffic.

During April, May and June 2016, occurred a evidentiary and judgment hearing, divided in three days. On those days, the policemen that approached Rafael, defense witnesses, and Rafael himself were heard. During the oral testimony, the police officers repeatedly contradicted each other AND the testimony they had given at the police station at the time of Rafael’s arrest. The DDH requested, during these hearings, 5 diligences: GPS of the electronic anklet; The name of the engineer and the engineering company whom, according to the policemen, they were escorting in the favela on that day; Images from the vehicle’s internal and external camera; and images from the UPP camera. The responsible judge denied every request and sent the case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público – MP), where it was waiting for the final allegations of accusation and of defense.

On April 20th, 2017, after the allegations were published, the judge condemned Rafael to 11 years in prison for trafficking and traffic association. In August, we got the news that Rafael caught tuberculosis in prison. Fortunately in initial stage. After a failed first attempt, Rafael’s lawyers got him to be treated at home for 6 months. So today, Rafael Braga is being kept in home confinement to treat tuberculosis. Also, a legal recourse against his sentence was sent.

Translation: Rede de Informações Anarquistas and Campanha pela Liberdade de Rafael Braga