Brazil Supreme Court justice approves including Bolsonaro in riot investigation

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Friday authorized including former president Jair Bolsonaro in its investigation of who incited the Jan. 8 riot in the nation’s capital, as part of a broader crackdown to hold responsible parties to account.

According to the text of his ruling, Justice Alexandre de Moraes granted the request from the prosecutor-general’s office, which cited a video Bolsonaro posted on Facebook two days after the riot. The video claimed Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wasn’t voted into office, but rather was chosen by the Supreme Court and Brazil’s electoral authority.

Prosecutors in the recently formed group to combat anti-democratic acts argued earlier Friday that although Bolsonaro posted the video after the riot, its content was sufficient to justify investigating his conduct beforehand. Bolsonaro deleted the video the morning after he first posted it.

Otherwise, Bolsonaro has refrained from commenting on the election since his Oct. 30 defeat. He repeatedly stoked doubt about the reliability of the electronic voting system in the run-up to the vote, filed a request afterward to annul millions of ballots cast using the machines and never conceded.

He has taken up residence in an Orlando suburb since leaving Brazil in late December, skipping the Jan. 1 swearing-in of his leftist successor. Some Democratic lawmakers have urged U.S. President Joe Biden to cancel his visa.

People are seen arriving at a house.
Bolsonaro, right, arrives at a rental house after being discharged from the hospital in Kissimmee, Fla., on Tuesday. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the justice’s decision late Friday, neither Bolsonaro nor any of his three lawmaker sons had issued comment on social media.

Brazilian authorities are investigating who enabled Bolsonaro’s radical supporters to storm the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential palace in an attempt to overturn results of the October election.

Focus on Bolsonaro’s justice minister

Targets of the probe include those who summoned rioters to the capital or paid to transport them, and local security personnel who may have stood aside to let the mayhem occur.

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

The Supreme Court’s Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered Torres’ arrest this week and has opened an investigation into his actions, which he characterized as “neglect and collusion.”

In his decision, which was made public Friday, de Moraes said Torres fired subordinates and left the country before the riot, an indication that he was deliberately laying the groundwork for the unrest.

A person speaks while holding a microphone.
Anderson Torres speaks during a news conference in Brasilia in October 2022. Brazil’s supreme court has issued an arrest warrant for the former Brazilian justice minister. (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press)

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Torres and said he must return within three days or Brazil will request his extradition, Justice Minister Flavio Dino said Friday.

“If by next week his appearance hasn’t been confirmed, of course we will use mechanisms of international legal co-operation. We will trigger procedures next week to carry out his extradition,” Dino said.

Torres has denied any wrongdoing, and said in a Jan. 10 Twitter post that he would interrupt his vacation to return to Brazil and present his defence. He has not yet done so.

WATCH | Bolsonaro supporters storm government buildings:

Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s Congress

Supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro who refuse to accept his loss in the recent presidential election stormed government buildings in the country’s capital Sunday, just a week after the inauguration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Dino pointed to a document that Brazilian federal police found upon searching Torres’ home; a draft decree that would have seized control of Brazil’s electoral authority and potentially overturned the election.

The origin and authenticity of the unsigned document are unclear, and it remains unknown if Bolsonaro or his subordinates took any steps to implement the measure that would have been unconstitutional, according to analysts and the Brazilian academy of electoral and political law.

But the document “will figure in the police investigation, because it even more fully reveals the existence of a chain of people responsible for the criminal events,” Dino said, noting that Torres will need to inform police who drafted it.

Detainees are led away by police.
Detainees are led away by police after Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings in Brasilia on Sunday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

By failing to initiate a probe against the document’s author or report its existence, Torres could be charged with dereliction of duty, said Mario Sergio Lima, a political analyst at Medley Advisors.

Torres said on Twitter that the document was probably found in a pile along with others intended for shredding, and that it was leaked out of context to feed false narratives aimed at discrediting him.

Some social media accounts suspended

Dino told reporters that no connection has yet been established between the capital riot and Bolsonaro, who has been in Florida since late December.

The federal district’s former governor and former military police chief are also targets of the Supreme Court investigation made public Friday. Both were removed from their positions after the riot.

Also on Friday night, the popular social media accounts of several prominent right-wing figures were suspended in Brazil 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, was directed at six social media platforms and established a two-hour deadline to block the accounts or face fines.

The accounts belong to a digital influencer, a YouTuber recently elected as a federal lawmaker, a podcast host and an evangelical pastor and senator-elect, among others.

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