Joao Ribeiro, Brazil Senator, To Be Tried On Slave Labor Charges

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BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — A Brazilian senator who allegedly kept workers in slave-like conditions will be tried by the country's Supreme Court.

The high court said on its website Friday that it will rule on the charges filed by the federal attorney general against Senator Joao Ribeiro, who allegedly kept more than 30 workers in miserable conditions on his ranch in the Amazon jungle state of Para.

As a senator, Ribeiro can only be tried by Brazil's highest court.

In 2004, Labor Ministry inspectors found 35 workers on Ribeiro's ranch working 78 hours a week with no medical assistance, no days off and living in "subhuman" conditions.

The inspectors found that the workers racked up debts to the ranch for the food and equipment it sold to them. The owed money was deducted from their wages.

The workers ended up permanently indebted and unable to leave the ranch and return to their homes.

The senator has said the workers were never stopped from leaving his property.

Slave-like working conditions are common in many parts of Brazil where poor laborers often are lured into arduous jobs where they rack up debts to plantation and factory owners who charge exorbitant prices for everything from food to transportation.

The court has not set a date to begin hearing the case against the senator.