RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – A Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Friday authorised an investigation of whether former president Jair Bolsonaro incited the January 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 Inácio 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 on Friday 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. Otherwise, Bolsonaro has refrained from commenting on the election since his October 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 and skipping the January 1 swearing-in of his leftist successor. Some Democratic lawmakers have urged United States (US) President Joe Biden to cancel his visa.
Following the justice’s decision late on Friday, Bolsonaro’s lawyer Frederick Wassef said in a statement that the former president “vehemently repudiates the acts of vandalism and destruction” from January 8, but blamed supposed “infiltrators” of the protest, something his far-right backers have also claimed.
The statement also said 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 Supreme Court, Congress and presidential palace in an attempt to overturn results of the October election.
Targets 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 focussed on Bolsonaro’s former justice minister Anderson Torres, who became the federal district’s security chief on January 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 characterised as “neglect and collusion”. In his decision, which was made public last 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 on 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 on January 10 on Twitter that he would interrupt his vacation to return to Brazil and present his defence. Three days later, that has yet to occur.