Brazil’s Supreme Court agrees to investigate Bolsonaro for rioting


Brazil’s Supreme Court has agreed to investigate whether former President Jair Bolsonaro incited the far-right mob that looted the country’s congress, top court and presidential offices, a rapid escalation in the investigation showing the ex-leader has legal could affect an extremist movement he helped build.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes granted a request by the prosecutor to include Bolsonaro in the wider investigation, citing a video the former president posted on Facebook two days after the riot. It alleged that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not voted into office, but rather elected by Brazil’s Supreme Court and electoral authority.

Although Bolsonaro posted the video after the riot and deleted it in the morning, its content was enough to pre-examine his conduct, prosecutors said.

Otherwise, Bolsonaro has refrained from commenting on the election since his defeat on October 30. He repeatedly raised doubts about the reliability of the electronic voting system in the run-up to the vote, then filed a request to reverse millions of ballots cast with the machines and never relented.

None of the ex-president’s claims were proven and the results of the election were recognized as legal by several politicians, including some of Bolsonaro’s allies, and several foreign governments.

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He has taken up residence in suburban Orlando since leaving Brazil in late December, skipping his leftist successor’s January 1 swearing-in, and some Democratic lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to revoke his visa.

Following the court’s decision late Friday, Bolsonaro’s lawyer Frederick Wassef said in a statement that the former president “vehemently denounces acts of vandalism and vandalism” from Jan. 8, but blamed the alleged “infiltrators” of the protest — something that his far-right supporters have also claimed.

The statement also said that Bolsonaro “never had any relationship or participation with these spontaneous social movements.”

Brazilian authorities are investigating who enabled Bolsonaro’s radical supporters to storm the seats of power in a bid to overturn the results of October’s election. Targets include those who called or paid rioters to the capital to transport them, and local security personnel who may have stood aside for the chaos to take place.

Much attention has so far focused on Anderson Torres, Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, who became chief of security for the federal district on Jan. 2 and was in the US on the day of the riot.

De Moraes ordered Torres’ arrest this week and has opened an investigation into his actions, which he characterized as “neglect and conspiracy”. In his decision, made public Friday, De Moraes said Torres fired subordinates and left the country before the riot, an indication he was deliberately laying the groundwork for the unrest.

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The court also issued an arrest warrant for the former security chief and he must return within three days or Brazil will ask for his extradition, Justice Minister Flávio Dino said on Friday.

Torres has denied wrongdoing and said on Twitter on Jan. 10 that he would cut short his holiday to return to Brazil and present his defense. Three days later, that still hasn’t happened.

The minister pointed to a document that the Brazilian federal police found when searching Torres’ house; a draft decree that would have taken control of Brazil’s electoral authority and possibly overturned the election. The origins and authenticity of the unsigned document are unclear, and it remains unknown whether Bolsonaro or his subordinates took steps to implement the measure that analysts and Brazil’s academy of suffrage and political law believe would have been unconstitutional.

But the document “will play a role in the police investigation because it reveals even more fully the existence of a chain of people responsible for the criminal events,” Dino said, adding that Torres will have to inform the police who have drawn up.

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By failing to investigate the document’s author or report its existence, at the very least, Torres could be charged with dereliction of duty, said Mario Sérgio Lima, a political analyst at Medley Advisors.

Torres said on Twitter that the document was likely found in a pile, along with other documents intended to be shredded, and leaked out of context with false stories aimed at discrediting him.

Dino told reporters on Friday morning that no connection has yet been made between the capital riots and Bolsonaro.

Also on Friday night, the popular social media accounts of several prominent Brazil right-wing figures were suspended in response to a court order, which journalist Glenn Greenwald obtained and detailed on a live social media broadcast.

The order, also issued by Justice de Moraes, targeted six social media platforms and set a two-hour TBEN to block the accounts or face fines. The accounts belong, among others, to a digital influencer, a YouTuber recently elected by the federal legislature, a podcast host in the form of Joe Rogan, and an evangelical pastor and senator-elect.


TBEN writer Bridi reported from Brasilia.