By Ricardo Brito
BRASILIA, April 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's leftist political party PSOL alleged on Thursday that a police chief in the Amazon had been reassigned in retaliation for the position he had taken on illegal logging.
The Federal Police said in a statement that Alexandre Saraiva would be replaced as police chief in the state of Amazonas, without giving a reason. Four other state police chiefs would also be replaced, they said.
Two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters the decision to reassign Saraiva was part of a broader turnover in the force following the appointment of a new justice minister.
However, PSOL said in a statement that they believed the move was politically motivated, citing Saraiva's recent criticisms of Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, and were asking prosecutors to investigate.
Federal prosecutors did not immediately respond to request for comment on PSOL's allegation.
Saraiva declined to comment on the possible reason for his reassignment.
On Wednesday, Saraiva had sent a request to the Supreme Court that an investigation be opened into Salles, according to a copy of the request reviewed by Reuters. The 38-page report accuses Salles of deliberately interfering in a police operation and endorsing allegedly fraudulent certificates for the timber.
Salles did not respond to request for comment.
In December, the federal police said they had seized a record 141,000 cubic meters (5 mln cubic feet) of wood in raids along the border between Amazonas and Para states.
Salles later defended the loggers, saying the wood was legally obtained and should be released from police custody.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
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