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Slain Rio de Janeiro's councillor and activist Marielle Franco is remembered at a 2019 International Women's Day event in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Slain Rio de Janeiro's councillor and activist Marielle Franco is remembered at a 2019 International Women's Day event in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Two police officers were arrested Tuesday in the killing last year of gay Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco and her driver, prosecutors said, a brazen murder that shocked Brazil.

Franco, 38, who was black, grew up in a slum and went on to become a respected defender of the poor and the LGBT community, and an outspoken critic of police brutality.

She was slain in a drive-by shooting along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on the evening of March 14, 2018. Her death triggered protests around the world and mass demonstrations in Brazil.

A sergeant in the military police, Roni Lessa, 48, was arrested on suspicion of being the shooter, the Rio prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The suspected driver, Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, 46, who was expelled from the military police, was also arrested, the statement said.

Prosecutors in a special organized crime unit say the shooting was meticulously planned over the course of three months, and there is no doubt that Franco was "summarily executed" because of her position and the causes that she defended.

The murder "was an attempt to silence all those movements that are growing: of black women, of the LGBT population -- they wanted black women to abandon their fights, and for the LGBT population to withdraw," Franco's partner Monica Benicio told AFP last week during the Rio carnival festivities.

After Rio hosted the summer Olympics in 2016, violence increased between drug gangs as well as between these gangs and paramilitary police militia and security forces.

? 2019 AFP

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