Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Girl raped daily during jail stay, rights groups say

AFP , BRASILIA

A 15-year-old girl robbery suspect was put in a jail cell with more than 20 men, and for one month was raped relentlessly and forced to have sex for food, human rights groups representing the just-released girl said on Thursday.

"She was raped from day one" at the jail in Para State, a Children and Adolescent Defense Center (CEDECA) spokeswoman said, adding that the number of men in the cell varied from 20 to 34.

"She was raped innumerable times and forced to exchange sexual relations for food," said Miere Cohen, president of the Order of Brazilian Lawyers Human Rights Commission.

Media reports of the case have sparked outrage across Brazil, especially since it closely followed an earlier incident of a 23-year-old woman who was also jailed in Para State for one month together with 70 men.

The teenager, whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested in Para State capital Abaetetuba on Oct. 21 on suspicion of robbery and put behind bars at a local police station jailhouse until an anonymous caller tipped off the media.

"Nobody really knows what she was charged with. She was a suspect in a robbery but police were unable to tell us which robbery. There was no formal charge," Cohen said.

The girl's lawyers said police at one point said they believed the suspect was not underage.

"Whether she was 15, 20, 50, 80 or 100 doesn't matter. A woman should not have been kept in a jail cell with men," Para Governor Ana Julia Carepa told reporters, adding that she would mete out "exemplary punishment" in the case.

The girl, whose family is very poor, "is distraught and very afraid, but said she's able to recognize the police officers who locked her up and the detainees who raped her. She's ready to talk," the spokeswoman for CEDECA said.

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