Cecilia Haddad’s accused killer seeking COVID jail release
Accused killer Marcelo Santoro is appealing to be released from his Rio prison due to the coronavirus pandemic, a recent diabetes diagnosis and the fact he has been held with no bail for two years.
Lawyers for the jilted mining engineer accused of murdering Sydney woman Cecilia Haddad have called for his release in recent filings that label the case against him "illegal".
It comes as News Corp Australia can also shed new light on Santoro's living conditions inside Rio's notorious Gericinó prison complex, which has had outbreaks of COVID-19.
Santoro's lawyers have successfully argued to move an appeal against his charges to a higher court, after a ruling that the state court was not qualified to conduct his trial due to the fact local prosecutors are working with NSW police.
Santoro is accused of murdering Ms Haddad, 38, a Sydney businesswoman who had broken off her relationship with him, in April 2018, and weighing down her body in the Lane Cove River.
He had stalked and terrified the popular Ms Haddad for weeks before her murder, according to evidence from her Brazil-based family at a pre-trial hearing in 2018.
The jilted mining engineer was arrested in Rio in July 2018 after fleeing there and is being prosecuted through a collaboration between NSW Police and Brazilian authorities.
No trial date has yet been set and court papers show that five ministers on the Fifth Panel of Brazil's Superior Court of Justice have ordered his appeal to the Federal Court.
Santoro's lawyer João Francisco Neto said the fact Australian police officers were aiding the prosecution with evidence was "illegal" under Brazilian law.
"The Superior Court of Justice recognised Mario Marcelo's right to be prosecuted and tried by the Federal Justice. The defence pointed out several irregularities in the international legal co-operation that was being illegally conducted by the State Justice," he said.
"The defence hopes that he can respond at liberty, as he has been in prison for more than two years, without any provision for trial."
Santoro's defence is concerned that documents sent by Australian authorities are in English and should be in Portuguese given the trial is in Brazil.
They also claim some documents were filed through irregular channels, with Ms Haddad's death certificate, for example, having been sent through her Rio-based family rather than through authorities.
The initial application for Santoro's potential release listed the illegality of his prosecution as grounds for parole.
Neto also said the threat of coronavirus was a consideration, given Santoro's underlying health issues, including a recent diagnosis of diabetes.
Santoro has spent two years at the sprawling Gericinó penitentiary, in Rio's west, where conditions have been harshened by the pandemic.
Family visits have been banned in his section, Bangu 8, for several months and lawyer access has been halved to four hours each weekday.
A source close to Santoro said he was unwell before the pandemic started but that his condition had worsened and a month ago he was sent by prison doctors for a day of tests in a private hospital that revealed he was diabetic.
On his return he spent the standard 14 day COVID quarantine at the jail before rejoining his cellmates, who number from two to four at a time.
The inmates sleep on mattresses donated by the International Olympic Committee after the 2016 Games and are able to access daily church services, which Santoro has been taking part in.
At least one Gericino inmate who was housed in a different section died in May and six other prisoners in Bangu 8 were isolated in July after showing coronavirus symptoms.
Santoro has been cut off by some of his Brazilian family, with his ex wife refusing to let him see his two young daughters. Before COVID, he was visited by his parents each Wednesday and Saturday.
Ms Haddad's Brazil-based family did not respond to requests for comment through their lawyer.
Brazil has been one of the countries worst impacted by the pandemic, with more than 128,000 deaths and almost 5 million cases.
Originally published as Cecilia Haddad's accused killer seeking COVID jail release