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.
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 demonstrations.”
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.
Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes agreed. In his decision, he also called for a hearing with experts in political communication of extremist movements and with experts monitoring pro-Bolsonaro groups on platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.
Moraes accused Bolsonaro of following the same.modus operandi of dissemination used by the criminal organization” being investigated by the court for the Brasília riot.
Bolsonaro, the justice wrote, repeatedly circulated false claims through social media, pushing a narrative that “delegitimizes democratic institutions and encourages groups of supporters to personally attack people who represent the institutions.” Even worse, Moraes wrote, “he incites supporters to commit crimes of extreme seriousness against the democratic rule of law.”
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 the Bolsonaroistas 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.”
Diana Durán in Bogotá contributed to this report.
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