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Brazil prosecutors request Bolsonaro probe over riot

Brazilian federal prosecutors on Friday asked the Supreme Court to investigate former President Jair Bolsonaro for allegedly encouraging anti-democratic protests that ended in the storming of government buildings by his supporters in Brasilia. Bolsonaro will be investigated for possible “instigation and intellectual authorship of the anti-democratic acts that resulted in vandalism and violence in Brasilia last Sunday,” a statement posted on the top public prosecutor’s website said. The Associated Press has the story:

Brazil prosecutors request Bolsonaro probe over riot

Newslooks- RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)

The Brazilian prosecutor-general’s office on Friday asked the Supreme Court to include former president Jair Bolsonaro in its investigation into who incited the Jan. 8 riot in the nation’s capital.

As the basis for their request, prosecutors in the recently formed group to combat anti-democratic acts cited a video Bolsonaro posted on Facebook two days after the riot, according to a statement. The video claimed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wasn’t voted into office, but rather was chosen by the Supreme Court and Brazil’s electoral authority.

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.

FILE – Brazilian Justice Minister Anderson Torres gives a press conference on the operation coined Operation Elections at the Command and Security Center of the Justice Ministry ahead of general elections in Brasilia, Brazil, Oct. 1, 2022. Brazil’s government is prepared to request Torres’ extradition should he fail to return from the U.S. by Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, given an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection with his role in the Jan. 8 capital riot, according to Brazil’s current Justice Minister Flavio Dino on Jan. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Prosecutors argued that, although Bolsonaro posted the video after the riot, its content was sufficient to justify investigating his conduct beforehand. Bolsonaro deleted it the morning after he first posted it. He has taken up residence in an Orlando suburb since leaving Brazil in late December and skipping the Jan. 1 swearing-in of his leftist successor, and some Democratic lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to cancel his visa.

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. Targets include those who paid to transport rioters to the capital 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, Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, who became the federal district’s security chief on Jan. 2, and was in the U.S. on the day of the riot.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, top, center left, meets with Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin, top center right, Supreme Court President Rosa Weber, top, third from left, Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, second left, and other justices at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, the morning after ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

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 that Torres fired subordinates and left the country before the riot, an indication that he was deliberately laying the groundwork for the unrest.

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

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

Torres has denied wrongdoing, and said Jan. 10 on Twitter that he would interrupt his vacation to return to Brazil and present his defense. Three days later, that has yet to occur.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino gives a press conference after a tribute to security professionals who worked to defend public buildings stormed by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, at the Justice Ministry in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Rioters invaded government buildings in the capital on Jan. 8. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

The minister 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, adding that Torres will need to inform police who drafted it.

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

Protesters, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police during a protest outside the Planalto Palace building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Other demonstrators stormed congress and the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

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 feed false narratives aimed at discrediting him.

Dino told reporters that no connection has yet been established between the capital riot and Bolsonaro.

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.

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