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Brazil's Supreme Court set to investigate ex-president Bolsonaro for capital riot

Jair Bolsonaro makes a statement at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, on November 1, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Brazil’s Supreme Court is set to investigate the ultra-right-wing former president Jair Bolsonaro over riots and looting of government buildings in Brasilia this week.

In a decision late Friday, the court approved a request from the office of the prosecutor general to include Bolsonaro in a rapidly expanding investigation into the anti-democratic riots on January 8.

By doing so, “Bolsonaro would have publicly incited the commission of a crime,” the prosecutor general said in a statement, accusing the former president of "instigation and intellectual authorship" of the riots.

The development came after Bolsonaro's rioting supporters ransacked the presidential palace, the Supreme Court, and the Congress. Bolsonaro's video went viral two days after the violent attack but was later removed.

Bolsonaro has denied any involvement in the riots. In a memo published on Friday, Bolsonaro stated that he "had no relationship or participation in these movements", blaming infiltrators for the incidents.

For years, Bolsonaro has sought to cast doubt on the credibility of Brazil's electoral system. He never confirmed the victory of the new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and left for the United States two days before the inauguration of his successor.

Brazilian authorities are seeking to identify the masterminds and financiers of the violent riots that have many similarities to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Anderson Torres, who was Bolsonaro's last justice minister, is wanted by the Supreme Court on charges of "collusion" with the rioters.

He is also accused of "inaction" in his last job as head of security in the capital Brasilia, which was the target of the destructive anger of the protesters.  

Like Bolsonaro, Torres was also in Brazil at the time of the uprising, and judicial authorities are still waiting for him to return to the country.

Lula's new justice minister Flavio Dino, who replaced Torres, said on Friday that authorities would give Torres a three-day respite until Monday to present himself.

If he fails to show up, "through international mechanisms, we will launch the procedures for extradition next week, since there is an arrest warrant," Dino told reporters in the capital.

Lula was sworn in on January 1, unleashing a barrage of rebuke against Bolsonaro, for what he called his predecessor's egregious mishandling of the country's affairs during his mandate.

Lula has said he had received a ruined country, whose former government had depleted all resources and undermined human rights.

The leftist leader has also accused Bolsonaro's "negationist" administration of committing "genocide" by failing to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.

Bolsonaro fled to Florida two days before the end of his mandate, reportedly to avoid going through the ceremonial handing over of the presidential sash to Lula.

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