Brazilian church leaders condemn attacks on university freedom

University rector killed himself after being arrested and barred from campus

January 4, 2018
Brazil police

The leader of the Anglican high church of Brazil has spoken out against the country’s alleged abuse of police power and attacks on university freedom.

The move follows news last year that the rector of Federal University of Santa Catarina, Luiz Carlos Cancellier de Olivo, killed himself after being arrested and barred from his own university campus.

One senator told the National Congress at the time that the incident was a “clear abuse of power” from police authorities.

In a letter signed by the 10 diocese and missionary district leaders of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil – the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil – primate bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva called for an end to what the church has referred to as a “dangerous process of intimidation” by the “illegitimate government”.

The group said: “We are concerned about the systematic adoption of practices that damage the democratic state of law that lead to coercion and breaches the principle of autonomy for universities. If applied indiscriminately, it sets a precedent for other institutions to be the target of persecution by state investigative apparatus.

“The rule of law presupposes solid, free institutions and where justice is practiced and applied with the predominance of objectivity, clarity and materiality. When justice depends more on the media performance of its agents we are the whole society at serious risk.”

Professor Cancellier was arrested with six of his colleagues on 14 September last year and held in custody for a day, according to local news sources. The university leader was accused of obstructing an investigation into the possible embezzlement of 80 million Brazilian real (£18 million), which had been earmarked for a distance learning project at the university.

The police have also been accused of providing selective information to the media to damage his reputation.

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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