Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Brazilians turn out in throngs to bury electrician


Almost all the 6,000 residents of Gonzaga turned out to pay their respects to a young Brazilian emigrant killed by British police in error during a hunt for terrorists, whose burial was to take place Friday in his hometown.

The body of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, arrived Thursday in Governador Valadares, in Minas Gerais state, six days after the deadly case of mistaken identity that has raised questions in Britain about ethnic profiling in the aftermath of that country's worst terror strikes.

"This is a loss that all of Brazil has felt," said Luciano Batel da Silva, Menezes' godfather, whose six youngest children accompanied the casket with a show of blood-red flowers.

Others in the crowd wore black armbands and waved Brazilian flags, taken up as a protest symbol in Brazil since the killing.

Menezes' body was flown to Sao Paulo on a Varig flight, accompanied by three cousins with whom he had lived in London for the past three years, and a Brazilian embassy official, a foreign ministry source said.

The Brazilian Air Force then flew his body to Governador Valadares, where mourners waited from the early hours to pay their last respects.

Virtually the entire town massed in the streets of Gonzaga, many weeping and waving improvised white flags of surrender.

Signs denouncing "Death by Mistake" and saying "England: don't fight terrorism with terror," could be read along the town's main avenue en route to its only church. It was decked out in the green and gold of the Brazilian flag.

Gonzaga has seen more than 1,500 of its residents leave in search of work in Europe and the US.

About 100 people staged a protest outside the British consulate in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, many waving signs reading "Shoot to Kill," to protest Menezes' killing.

As the body arrived in Sao Paulo, Manoel Gomes Pereira, a diplomat who coordinates work with Brazilians living abroad, said: "We understand England's concern with the [terror] attacks, but we do not accept that that concern should be allowed to kill innocent people."

He said the victim's family, with the support of the Foreign Ministry, was discussing the issue of compensation for the loss of their son.

Menezes, who arrived in Britain on March 13, 2002, was shot eight times -- seven bullets in the head -- after police followed him from Tulse Hill in south London a week ago.

He was gunned down at Stockwell subway station as he fled police hunting for four suspected would-be suicide bombers after a series of failed bombing attacks the previous day.

Two weeks earlier, on July 7, in London, 56 people were killed including four suicide bombers in Britain's worst terror strike.

Britain's Home Office on Thursday said Menezes held an expired student visa, implying that his passport bore a forged stamp and could have been the reason he fled from police.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry said Menezes' legal status "in no way changes the British authorities' responsibility in his tragic death ... and should have no bearing at all on the investigation of the tragedy or the reparations the British government must make to his family."

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