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Brazil arrests senior military police over January 8 riots

August 19, 2023

Authorities said military police officers shared messages promoting a coup and had prior knowledge of the pro-Bolsonaro riots. They have been charged with attempted coup d'etat and other crimes.

Military police officers standing outside a camp of Bolsonaro supporters in Brasilia on January 9
Prosecutors said senior military police officers in Brasilia failed to prevent the January 8 riotsImage: Ricardo Moraes/REUTERS

Authorities in Brazil arrested seven senior members of the capital's military police on Friday as part of an investigation into the January 8 riots in which supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country's Congress and other government buildings.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said there was "significant evidence" that the military police authorities had "advance knowledge" of the riots, which they failed to prevent.

Some officers circulated messages promoting a coup and spreading misinformation about the election, prosecutors said.

"There was (an) alignment of ideology — and purposes — between the officials and those who pleaded for an intervention of the armed forces," Brazil's attorney general said in a statement.

What are the charges?

Among those arrested include military police commander for the federal district, Klepter Rosa, as well as former commander Colonel Fabio Augusto Vieira.

They and five others were accused of a litany of crimes including attempted coup d'etat, qualified damage to public property and violation of their duties as police authorities.

The riots saw Bolsonaro supporters invade the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court in Brasilia, trashing furniture and priceless artworks.

They called for a military intervention to overthrow newly-inaugurated President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Moraes said the officials "maliciously failed to act, giving way to the coup-plotting purposes of the anti-democratic horde that attacked the three branches of the republic."

Bolsonaro supporters storm government buildings in Brasilia

Bolsonaro's legal battles

The arrests come as Bolsonaro himself faces several other investigations, including a probe into the sale of two luxury watches he received as gifts from Saudi Arabia while in office.

Bolsonaro was barred from running for office again until 2030 after a panel of judges concluded in June that he abused his power by casting unfounded doubts about Brazil's electronic voting system.

He has denied any wrongdoing over the January 8 riots.

zc/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)