SAO PAULO (AP) — A man accused of raping 40 women turned himself in, only to be let go because Brazilian law prohibits voters from being arrested five days before elections unless they are caught red-handed, authorities said Wednesday.
Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, is holding a presidential runoff election Sunday.
Police in Rio de Janeiro said they tracked the 34-year-old man down through a cell phone that was stolen from one of the rape victims, but could not keep him in jail Tuesday because he was not arrested while committing a crime.
The man has denied the crimes, which happened in 2003 and between 2005 and 2007.
The law prohibits arrests to protect voters and candidates ahead of elections. Candidates can’t be detained 15 days before the vote.
“It exists to guarantee voters and candidates are not subjected to any kind of pressure,” said Silvio Salata of the Brazilian Bar Association in Sao Paulo.
The no-arrest provision was included in the Brazilian electoral code enacted in 1932 after a period in which election fraud and arrests to intimidate voters were common.
The prohibition on arrests of voters and candidates also runs for 48 hours after the end of voting.