BRASÍLIA (AFP) – Brazil’s new leftist government tightened the net around suspected instigators of riots that targetted the seats of power, ordering a probe of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro and arresting his justice minister on Saturday.
Thousands of Bolsonaro backers broke into the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court buildings in the capital Brasilia last Sunday, demanding the ouster of his successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
They smashed windows and furniture, destroying priceless works of art, and left graffiti messages calling for a military coup.
More than 2,000 alleged rioters were detained, and the authorities are tracking those suspected of having masterminded and financed the revolt that shocked Brazil and the world.
Late on Friday, a Supreme Court judge gave the green light for a probe into the origins of the riots to also look at Bolsonaro, who for years had sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s internationally-hailed election system.
A request to add Bolsonaro to the suspect list had come from the office of the prosecutor general (PGR), which cited a video he had posted “questioning the regularity of the 2022 presidential elections”.
By doing so, “Bolsonaro would have publicly incited the commission of a crime”, a PGR statement said.
The request concerned an ongoing investigation into the “instigation and intellectual authorship” of the rioting.
Bolsonaro has never publicly acknowledged Lula’s victory and left for the United States (US), where he remains, two days before his successor’s inauguration.
The far-right ex-president’s last Justice Minister, Anderson Torres, was also in the US when the riots happened, and was arrested early on Saturday on his return to Brasilia.
Torres is the subject of a Supreme Court warrant for alleged “collusion” with the rioters, and stands accused of “omission” in his most recent job as security chief for the capital.
Brazil’s Federal Police on Saturday said it had executed a warrant for Torres’ “preventive detention”.
It said he “was arrested upon landing at Brasilia Airport and sent to custody, where he will remain at the disposal of Justice. The investigation remains confidential”.