Football star’s campaign for murdered journalist

By Jonathan Gilbert, May 23, 2013
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Vladimir Herzog: tortured to death

Vladimir Herzog: tortured to death

A sporting legend is demanding the resignation of Brazil’s football chief for inciting the murder of a Jewish journalist.

Romario, who scored 1,000 goals in a celebrated international career, has accused Jose Maria Marin, the president of the CBF, Brazilian football’s governing body, over the death of former BBC reporter Vladimir Herzog in 1975.

Together with Herzog’s son, Ivo, Romario, who is now a member of the Brazilian parliament, handed in a petition last month of 55,000 signatures calling on Mr Marin to step down.

Mr Marin, who is in charge of Brazil’s preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup, responded by heading to the courts, where he accused Romario of defamation and slander.

Vladimir Herzog was a renowned journalist who, aged just 38, was tortured to death by intelligence agents working for the country’s military dictatorship of the time.

He was born in Yugoslavia to Jewish parents who fled to Italy, and then Brazil, to escape the Nazis. He lived in London for three years in the 1960s, where he worked for the BBC.

In 1975, he was director of journalism at Sao Paolo-based network TV Cultura when agents summoned him for questioning about his links to the Communist Party, which was outlawed. At the interrogation Mr Herzog was alleged to have been tortured to death, though his original death certificate indicated he had committed suicide.

Mr Marin, now 81, had criticised Mr Herzog in a speech he delivered at the Sao Paolo state legislature two weeks before his interrogation. The following year he made a speech praising Sergio Fleury, the head of a repressive police division who was reportedly involved in Mr Herzog’s torture. Mr Marin was a congressman for ARENA, which supported the military government.

“His past is linked to the dictatorship,” said Romario.

Ivo Herzog said: “It would be unacceptable for Marin to head the inaugural ceremony of our World Cup, watched by millions worldwide.”

The CBF has defended Mr Marin, branding the allegations “absolutely false”.

Last updated: 3:45pm, May 23 2013