Wed, Apr 03, 2013 - Page 7 News List

US woman gang-raped, beaten in Brazilian van

NY Times News Service, RIO DE JANEIRO

A US woman was raped by three men aboard a public van in a six-hour abduction over the weekend that began in the seaside district of Copacabana, the police said.

The attackers pummeled the woman’s face and tied up her male companion, a French citizen, then beat him with a metal bar as he witnessed the harrowing assault. The couple were forced to use bank cards to withdraw money from their accounts before the assailants finally freed them at a bus station on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

The assault stunned many in Brazil, especially as Rio tries to promote itself as a city on the mend and prepares to host next year’s World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

“Everyone should be shocked by this horrendous crime,” said Aparecida Goncalves, the head of Brazil’s national office for combating violence against women.

She said that reports of gang rape remained relatively rare in Rio and other parts of Brazil, but that cases of rape on public transportation, including buses and subway cars, remained a pressing issue in some large cities.

Two men were arrested over the weekend, one of whom, the police said, confessed to the rape of the 21-year-old woman. The police said she had been in Brazil on a student visa. A third suspect was arrested on Monday night.

The assault on the US woman, police investigators said, began early on Saturday, just after midnight, when the attackers forced other passengers out of the van, which picks up passengers along the street and can seat about a dozen people. The woman was raped by all three men, who took turns driving the vehicle, the police said.

The woman left Brazil after registering the crime and undergoing preliminary medical treatment, while her companion remained here, where he is cooperating with the police, said Alexandre Braga, a senior police investigator with Rio’s special police unit for crimes involving tourists.

The two men in custody were arrested after investigators tracked purchases made with the victims’ credit cards, which were stolen by the assailants, and examining images obtained from security cameras at a filling station and convenience store where the men had stopped to buy energy drinks and whiskey.

After news of the arrests was broadcast on Sunday night on Fantastico, a widely viewed news program on the Globo television network, other people here came forward to tell the police they recognized the assailants in connection with other crimes, largely robberies, aboard what appeared to be the same transport van.

One 21-year-old Brazilian student said she had similarly been held for an hour and raped by the same men on March 23, after boarding the van.

The revelation of that previous episode seemed to have shaken the public security forces.

The victim had quickly registered the case with the police, but the authorities were said to have slowly investigated the claim.

Two police officials in charge of investigating the March 23 case were abruptly removed from their posts on Monday.

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