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Bolsonaro targeted as Brazil police probe ‘coup attempt’

Brazil police probe Bolsonaro son over illegal spying
Source: Video Screenshot

Brazilian police launched dozens of raids Thursday targeting ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, who was ordered to surrender his passport, and his inner circle over allegations of orchestrating an invasion of the seat of power last year.

Federal police said they were carrying out 33 search and seizure operations and executing four arrest warrants in an investigation of a “criminal organization involved in the attempted coup” — a reference to Bolsonaro supporters’ invasion of the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court on January 8, 2023.

The raids were authorized by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who also ordered that multiple suspects be suspended from public duties and surrender their passports within 24 hours.

That included Bolsonaro, whose lawyer and adviser Fabio Wajngarten confirmed in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that the far-right ex-army captain would comply with the order.

Bolsonaro called himself the victim of “relentless persecution.” The former president, who was in the United States at the time of the riots, has repeatedly denied responsibility.

Four army generals were also targeted in the raids, including Bolsonaro’s former defense minister and vice presidential candidate Walter Braga Netto and one of the ex-president’s closest advisors, Augusto Heleno.

The head of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL), Valdemar Costa Neto, was also a target.

Three people have been arrested so far in the operation, according to Brazilian media reports: two army officers and a former international affairs adviser to Bolsonaro, Filipe Martins.

– ‘Plan to subvert democracy’ –

The riots came a week after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s inauguration following a narrow election win in October 2022 over Bolsonaro, who served as president from 2019 to 2022.

Tens of thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the halls of power, trashing the premises and calling for the military to oust veteran leftist Lula, alleging, without evidence, that the election was stolen.

The episode drew comparisons to the US Capitol invasion in Washington almost exactly two years earlier by supporters of Donald Trump, Bolsonaro’s political role model.

Brazilian police said the suspected coup organizers “spread a story of alleged fraud in the 2022 elections, with a false account of vulnerabilities in the electronic voting system.”

Moraes said in his ruling the suspects had “executed a plan to subvert the democratic rule of law, with the aim of preventing the installment of the legitimately elected government and maintaining then-president Jair Bolsonaro in power.”

Investigators said organizers had targeted Moraes himself, with an aborted plan to arrest the high court judge, a frequent target of criticism from Bolsonaro.

Lula called for a full investigation to uncover who organized and financed the January 8 attacks.

He said Bolsonaro “must have participated in planning this coup attempt.”

“I don’t think it could have happened without him,” Lula said in an interview with Brazil’s Radio Itatiaia.

“He wasn’t ready to give up power, to the point that he refused to hand me the presidential sash and ran off crying to the United States.”

Bolsonaro faces numerous investigations of alleged corruption and abuse of office stemming from his time in power.

In June, the electoral court — which is headed by Moraes — barred him from running for public office for eight years over his unproven fraud allegations against Brazil’s voting system.

His inner circle has also been caught up in an investigation into allegations of illegal spying on his perceived opponents and other political figures.

Last month, police raided the Bolsonaros’ vacation home in Angra dos Reis, outside Rio de Janeiro, in an operation targeting the former president’s son Carlos, a Rio city councilor, in connection with that investigation.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested over the riots in Brasilia. Thirty have been convicted so far on charges including an attempted coup, with prison sentences of up to 17 years.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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