Scientist accused of environmental crime

8th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 August 2007, RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A Brazilian judge has ordered a prominent Dutch scientist freed from prison while he appeals his conviction for environmental crimes and embezzlement, a court official said.

8 August 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A Brazilian judge has ordered a prominent Dutch scientist freed from prison while he appeals his conviction for environmental crimes and embezzlement, a court official said.

Marc Van Roosmalen was convicted on 15 June of trying to illegally auction off the names of monkey species, keeping monkeys at his house without authorisation and selling a scaffolding donated to the National Institute for Amazon Research where he worked.
He was sentenced to 15 years and nine months in a prison in the Amazon city of Manaus, where he lived.

Roosmalen has claimed in media reports that he was framed by powerful logging and ranching interests that operate in the Amazon. His lawyer, David Neves, said the charge of selling the scaffolding was baseless and the sentence for the other charges was disproportionate.

On Tuesday, Roosmalen was ordered released pending an appeal, according to a court official who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with court policy. Roosmalen's lawyer confirmed the ruling.

Over the past decade, Roosmalen, a naturalised Brazilian, has described seven new monkey species in the Amazon and has garnered a number of international awards for his research and defence of the Amazon. In 2000, Time magazine named him one of its "Heroes for the Planet."

He tried to auction off the rights to name the new species over the Internet, with the proceeds going to help preserve their habitats. But the court ruled that since he was working for a government agency when the monkeys were found, he didn't have the right to auction off their names.

Brazil is sensitive to the issue of biopiracy, and prosecutors contend the sentence shows that scientists must follow strict environmental laws aimed at giving the nation control over what happens in the Amazon.

Last month, the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress called for Roosmalen's release.

"Van Roosmalen is a scientist, who, for his work, merits our respect and our defence. The alleged bureaucratic disobedience does not justify the penalty," said Ennio Candotti, then-president of the society.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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