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Judge orders ex-president to testify on riots

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro faces a 10-day deadline to submit to questioning over the storming of government buildings by his supporters

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been ordered by a judge on the country’s Supreme Court to testify about his role in the January 8 riots in which protestors stormed government buildings in protest against his election defeat.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes made the ruling on Friday, agreeing to a petition by Brazil’s top prosecutor, who claimed that Bolsonaro’s testimony would be “indispensable” in investigating the riots. President Lula da Silva has accused his predecessor of masterminding the violence in an attempted “coup.”

Under the judge’s order, Bolsonaro is required to testify before federal police within 10 days. The former president was in Florida at the time of the riots and repeatedly denied having anything to do with the unrest. He flew to the US just before his term expired at the end of December, refusing to stick around for the transition ceremony at Lula’s inauguration on January 1.

Bolsonaro lost his re-election bid in October and challenged the result, alleging  that voting machines used in the contest were prone to fraud. Thousands of his supporters protested for months, culminating with the breaches of Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on January 8. Some of the rioters called for a military coup to prevent Lula from assuming power.

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A supporter of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro looks out from a shattered window of the Planalto Palace in Brasilia,  January 8, 2023
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Moraes also heads Brazil’s electoral authority and was given power last year to police online speech. In the wake of the riot, he has used that power to demand the immediate removal of alleged disinformation and calls for unrest on social media and to order Facebook, Twitter and other major platforms to suspend the accounts of suspected instigators, including several high-profile Bolsonaro supporters, elected lawmakers and journalists.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested, and a number of public officials have been punished for their actions or non-actions during the riot. Moraes suspended Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha from office for alleged security flaws that may have helped enable the rioters. Anderson Torres, formerly minister of justice and public security under Bolsonaro, was arrested on suspicion of “omission” and “connivance.” Like the former president, he was in Florida at the time of the riots.

Late last month, Bolsonaro eventually returned to Brazil, where he faces a number of other probes besides the January 8 investigation. Last week he was questioned about diamond jewelry gifts he received while in power.

April 15, 2023 at 07:39AM

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