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Brazil Senate President Renan Calheiros suspended from duties by Supreme Court

Brazil's Supreme Court has ordered the suspension from his duties of Senate President Renan Calheiros. Last week the same court voted to put him on trial for embezzlement.

Brazil's Supreme Court ruled on Monday to remove Calheiros as president of the senate with immediate effect, a court spokesman said. He was indicted last week by the top court on charges of embezzlement. 

Justice Marco Aurelio Mello took up an injunction against Calheiros based on a majority ruling by the court last month that no person indicted for a crime could be in the presidential line of succession.

The head of the Senate is currently the second in line after the speaker of the lower house. Brazil does not have a vice president at this time.

Calheiros still keeps his Senate seat and can appeal the order by justice Aurelio Mello who ruled that as Calheiros has not yet been tried he cannot remain Senate president and be in line for the presidency.

Calheiros is an ally of President Michel Temer and a member of the ruling Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). His term as Senate president was to end in February. The next Senate leader is to be Sen. Jorge Viana, an ally of impeached President Dilma Rousseff.

Alleged embezzlement

Last week the same court voted 8-3 to put Calheiros on trial for alleged embezzlement. The Senate president has denied all wrongdoing.  The accusations against Calheiros are that he falsified his Senate expense accounts adn used fake receipts to obtain reimbursement for the equivalent of $1,800 (1,6730 euros) a month for several months in 2005.

Calheiros is also among the politicians under investigation in "Operation Car Wash" the huge investigation around the state-run oil company Petrobras. He has again denied all wrongdoing.

Protesting corruption

Brasilien Proteste gegen Korruption (Reuters/A. Machado)

Protesters in Brasilia hold up a banner in support of the federal judge leading the corruption probe.

Calheiros had tried to fast-track legislation that would have weakened the powers of prosecutors and judges to aggressively pursue suspects in the investigation.

On Sunday there were protests across Brazil to condemn corruption and the congressional vote seen as an effort to intimidate judges and prosecutors leading the corruption probe. The lower house of Congress voted to amend an anti-corruption bill to enable prosecutors and judges to be punished for alleged abuses of authority.

In Sao Paulo about 15,000 people marched behind a banner reading "Corrupt Congress." In Rio de Janeiro demonstrators waved banners with messages like "We are all Sergio Moro," the judge overseeing Operation Car Wash.

Temer, who took over from Rousseff in May, has already lost four ministers to corruption allegations.

jm/bw (Reuters, AP)

 

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