Brazil arrests man on terrorism charges ahead of Olympics

Friday, Jul 29, 2016,11:12 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Rio De Janeiro | Brazilian officials have announced a new arrest on terrorism charges, saying that a man living in Rio de Janeiro state had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group and had been in Syria. The man allegedly had links to terrorist organizations at least as far back as 2014 when Brazil hosted the football World Cup, said Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes yesterday.

Despite the arrest, which followed 12 others last week, de Moraes said there is still a very minimal chance of a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, Rio’s top security official vowed to review security for the Olympic torch after rioting protesters blocked the relay ceremony and apparently extinguished the flame.

The violent clashes late Wednesday in Angra dos Reis, a coastal resort south of Rio, cast a shadow over final preparations for South America’s first Olympics, which start August 5. In another worry for Olympic organizers, Rio metro employees threatened yesterday to go on strike on the eve of the Games if they do not get a nearly 10 percent salary increase, raising the possibility of transport chaos for some 500,000 tourists expected to attend.

Officials said that the terrorism suspect, a Brazilian citizen, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Nova Iguacu, in Rio de Janeiro state. The justice department said the indictment against Chaer Kalaun, a Brazilian of Lebanese descent, was sealed, but had been filed under anti-terrorism laws. Separately, the federal police said a 34-year-old man was being investigated after he promoted a terrorist organization on the Internet. He also had a prior detention for possession of weapons.

De Moraes said the suspect was involved, had a link with terrorists back as far as the World Cup. We carried on investigating him and he left Brazil. He was in Syria and returned to Brazil and swore loyalty to the Islamic State group. The man’s lawyer, Edson Ferreira, said the allegations lacked substance. There’s nothing more than suspicions that he put posts on Facebook, the lawyer said. He did not pledge allegiance, he was not recruiting, or bringing people or collaborating or encouraging any projects of the Islamic State, he said.

Ferreira said his client is a Muslim and lived in Lebanon when he was an adolescent. The arrest came a week after the 12 other Brazilian men were arrested in an unrelated incident for allegedly trying to form a terrorism cell. Officials downplayed the seriousness of the group, calling them amateur and disorganized.