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News Release

Action Alert: Stop Intimidation of Brazilian Labour Inspector Fernanda Giannasi

Intimidation against Brazilian Labour inspector Fernanda Giannasi for her role in exposing the dangers of asbestos to workers has escalated dramatically.

During a public service career of more than twenty years, Labour Inspector Fernanda Giannasi has received death threats for her participation in the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil and obtain justice for injured workers.

She is a founding member of ABREA, the Association of Asbestos-Exposed Workers in Brazil, and the Coordinator in Latin America of the Citizens' Virtual Network Against Asbestos, and is a familiar face on Brazilian TV, in magazines and at public meetings.

On February 20, 2004 she was officially informed that she was no longer authorized to carry out inspections or mobilize workers; henceforth, Labour Inspector Giannasi would be confined to the Sao Paulo office.

The timing of this decision is not coincidental, coming just a few weeks after the irretrievable breakdown of negotiations between ABREA and Brazil's major asbestos companies. Protracted discussions to work out a package to provide compensation and medical care for 2,500 affected workers had been on-going for three years. Ms. Giannasi played a major role in these talks; she characterized the final offer made by the companies as "derisory and insulting."

Inspector Giannasi received a menacing letter two weeks ago.

Almir Pazzianotto Pinto, a former Brazilian Labour Minister, has instigated a criminal claim under Article 139 of the Penal Code claiming that she had offended his honour.

On February 17, 2004 when the parties in this proceeding returned to court for Pinto's testimony, they were informed that the case could not proceed as the presiding Federal Judge João Carlos Da Rocha Mattos had been jailed. The Judge was arrested during Operation Anaconda, which has revealed one of Brazil's biggest scandals involving judicial corruption and organized crime. The temporary judge who was in court on February 17 announced that no further hearings would be held until September.

For more information, see the Backgrounder below, and visit the Ban Asbestos Canada at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ban-Asbestos-Canada/117989578236916.

Fernanda Giannasi needs your support now.

Please send your letters of support for Fernanda Giannasi to the following Brazilian officials:

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: pr@planalto.gov.br and secom@planalto.gov.br
The Ministry of Justice: gabinetemj@mj.gov.br
The Labour Ministry: ministro@mte.gov.br
Senator Eduardo Suplicy: esuplicy@senador.senado.gov.br
Deputado João Paulo Cunha: joaopaulocunha@terra.com.br
Deputado Roberto Gouveia: gabinete@robertogouveia.org.br
Saint-Gobain: actionnaires@saint-gobain.com

Please CC all letters to Laurie Kazan-Allan at laurie@lkaz.demon.co.uk