Brazil’s supreme court to probe Bolsonaro in election denial unrest



BRASÍLIA — Brazil’s supreme court on Friday agreed to investigate former president Jair Bolsonaro as part of its probe into the “instigators and intellectual authors” behind the assault by thousands of his supporters Sunday on the congress, presidential palace and supreme court.

The investigation was requested Friday by the attorney general’s office, which cited a video Bolsonaro posted on Facebook on Tuesday questioning the credibility of the election he lost in October. Although the video was posted two days after the riot, and was deleted a day later, prosecutors argued in a court filing it would “have the power to incite new acts of civil insurgency.”

Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida shortly before the inauguration of his successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Frederick Wassef, a lawyer representing Bolsonaro, said the former president “never had any relation or participation” in the attack in Brasília.

“President Jair Bolsonaro always repudiated all the illegal and criminal acts, and always spoke publicly against illicit conducts, just as he was always a defender of the Constitution and democracy,” Wassef said in a statement. “Throughout his government, he always acted according to the four lines of the Constitution. President Jair Bolsonaro fiercely repudiates the vandalism and depradation acts against public patrimony committed by infiltrators in the manifestations.”

The video posted by Bolsonaro shows a man identified as an attorney in a Mato Grosso state saying the election was a fraud and Lula was chosen “by the supreme court.”

Prosecutors argued the video should be investigated as evidence of a “crime of incitement,” which is punishable by three to six months in jail or a fine.

Deputy Attorney General Carlos Frederico Santos asked the supreme court to order Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to preserve the video as evidence.

The investigation into the former president’s activities is part of seven sweeping probes by the court into the attack. Investigators are working to identify financiers, masterminds, instigators and any authorities who participated.

Instigators and intellectual authors include those who promoted “coup-supporting theories” that helped mobilize the mob through social networks, prosecutors said.

Police on Sunday detained more than 1,800 people, but many were released without charge on “humanitarian” grounds. Prosecutors asked a federal court on Thursday to block $1.3 million in assets belonging to 52 people and seven companies alleged to have helped fund the buses that carried bolsonaristas to the capital.

A senior justice ministry official said authorities believe Anderson Torres, the recently removed public security chief for the federal district of Brasília, could provide a possible link to Bolsonaro himself.

Torres, who was Bolsonaro’s justice minister, has been removed from his post in the federal district and faces arrest. On Tuesday, authorities found a draft decree in his home that could have been used in an attempt to overturn Bolsonaro’s election loss.

Torres is in Florida on what he has described as a family reunion. If he does not return to Brazil by Monday, justice minister Flavio Dino told reporters Friday, the government will request his extradition. Torres has said he has not been in contact with Bolsonaro during what he has described as a “family vacation.”

Torres has not denied the authenticity of the draft document. But he said on social media that it was likely found among a pile of documents that he meant to toss, and claimed it was “leaked” to the press to create a “false narrative.”

“I respect Brazilian democracy,” Torres tweeted Thursday. “My conscience is clear regarding my actions as minister.”

Marina Dias contributed to this report.

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