Brazil strips Hoerig’s citizenship

WARREN – Local murder suspect Claudia Hoerig’s citizenship was revoked by the Brazilian government about a month ago, according to simultaneous announcements made Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan and Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins.

Ryan and Watkins have continued to pressure the Brazilian government to return the woman to the United States to face trial in Trumbull County in the 2007 murder of her husband, Air Force Maj. Karl Hoerig.

Karl Hoerig was found dead inside the couple’s Newton Falls home, shot in the back of the head. Claudia Hoerig was charged with aggravated murder after fleeing the area for Brazil, where she was born.

Ryan called revocation of her citizenship the first step toward extraditing the woman to Trumbull County to stand trial for murder.

”For over six years, Claudia Hoerig has lived as a free citizen in Brazil despite being accused of murdering her husband, Major Karl Hoerig, in cold blood,” Ryan said.

”With help of Karl’s family, a dedicated group of his supporters and Trumbull County Prosecutor Watkins and his team, I have worked hard to bring Claudia Hoerig back to the United States to face prosecution for murder.

”Karl Hoerig flew nearly 200 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it is our duty to honor his memory and service to our country by seeking justice for him and his family members,” Ryan said.

Watkins said, ”I applaud the government of Brazil for taking action. They took an important step. The family will now have closure with the return of Claudia.”

Watkins said he was contacted by Paul Hoerig, the victim’s brother, who has served as a spokesman for the family, and he forwarded an item that he found printed in an official Brazilian government publication noting the loss of her Brazilian nationality on July 3.

Watkins said Hoerig’s finding has been confirmed by the Office of International Affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice.

”The executive branch of their government finally took action. That’s great. We’re still checking to see what if any appeals she may have in this process,” said Watkins, who in 2010 turned down any idea of traveling to Brazil to stage a murder trial there as that country suggested.

But that year, Watkins also questioned how the woman was afforded protection after ”unequivocally renoucing her citizenship to Brazil and choosing to become a citizen of the United States.”

In a letter to the Justice Department, Watkins referred to sections of the Brazilian Constitution that stated: ”Loss of nationality shall be declared for a Brazilian who acquires another nationality unless there was imposition of naturalization by foreign rules, to the Brazilian resident in foreign state, as a condition for him to stay in its territory or for the exercise of civil rights.”

”And in Claudia’s case there was no coercion or force making her to denounce Brazil. She could have maintained dual citizenship, but she didn’t,” Watkins said. ”It was all voluntary.”

She became a U.S. citizen in 1999, but continued to claim her Brazilian citizenship, to the point of evading arrest and taking advantage of Brazil’s laws that prohibit extradition of its citizens.

In April, Ryan, while at a Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations meeting, asked Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to personally review a decision by the Air Force to award a very lucrative contract to build planes to a Brazilian-based company over a company based in Wichita, Kan.

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, said he wasn’t aware of the Hoerig matter and that he would review the contract award. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, likewise, was reviewing the contract award based upon a protest, Hagel said at the time.

In 2009, Ryan and former Congressman John Boccieri reached out to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for help in getting an extradition hearing. Ryan also has written to others in the U.S. and Brazilian governments looking for help.

Two years later he introduced legislation that would block aid to Brazil, but the bill stalled.

And earlier this year, Ryan and Marietta Republican Bill Johnson aligned to introduce a pair of bills that would stop $14 million in U.S. aid to Brazil and another that would deny visas to Brazilians. The bills are in different committees.