Brazil police to seize Jair Bolsonaro's passport as net tightens in coup probe | World News - Hindustan Times
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Brazil police to seize Jair Bolsonaro's passport as net tightens in coup probe

Reuters |
Feb 08, 2024 10:12 PM IST

The police visited former president Jair Bolsonaro's beach house on Thursday and told him to hand over his passport.

Brazil's federal police on Thursday sought to confiscate former President Jair Bolsonaro's passport and arrest some of his closest aides, sources said, as part of an investigation into an alleged coup attempt after he lost the 2022 election.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro.(Reuters)
Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro.(Reuters)

The operation reflects a tightening net around Bolsonaro, his family and some of his most powerful allies for actions before and after his unsuccessful reelection effort. The confiscation of his passport represents an escalation in the probe against the former president, a far-right firebrand who cast himself as a Brazilian version of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

A federal police source directly involved in the operation said seized passports can indicate the possibility of future arrests, forcing suspects to stay in Brazil to face any charges.

Police visited Bolsonaro's beach house on Thursday and told him to hand over his passport, said three sources, who requested anonymity to discuss an active operation. The former president will comply with the order, Bolsonaro family spokesman Fabio Wajngarten said on social media.

According to the decision by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes that triggered Thursday's operation, in November 2022 Bolsonaro received a draft decree to overturn electoral results and issue arrest warrants for Moraes, fellow Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes and Senate leader Rodrigo Pacheco.

Federal police officers leave the headquarters of the Liberal Party during an operation targeting some of former President Jair Bolsonaro's top aides in Brasilia, Brazil on February 8.(Reuters)
Federal police officers leave the headquarters of the Liberal Party during an operation targeting some of former President Jair Bolsonaro's top aides in Brasilia, Brazil on February 8.(Reuters)

At Bolsonaro's request, the draft decree was modified, but the arrest of Moraes and a requirement for new elections remained, said the court order, citing police investigations.

After tweaking the decree, Bolsonaro summoned military commanders and pressured them to support a putsch, according to the police account, based on phone records and plea bargain testimony from the ex-president's former aide-de-camp.

Also Read | Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro barred from elections for eight years: ‘Appalling lies'

Bolsonaro has already been ruled politically ineligible until 2030 for spreading election falsehoods, and faces several other criminal probes that could land him in jail. He has denied wrongdoing and calls the investigations politically motivated.

Last week, in another sign of Bolsonaro's mounting legal woes, federal police searched properties linked to his son, Carlos Bolsonaro. The Rio de Janeiro city councillor, who has denied wrongdoing, is suspected of using data illegally collected by spy agency Abin to attack his father's rivals.

'LEGITIMIZE A MILITARY INTERVENTION'

In a statement on Thursday, the federal police did not name the targets of the operation, but said they are accused of participating in "a criminal organization that acted in an attempted coup d'etat" aimed at "keeping the then-President of the Republic in power."

The sources said search warrants were also issued for properties linked to Walter Braga Netto, Bolsonaro's former running mate; Augusto Heleno, his former national security adviser; former Defense Minister Paulo Nogueira Batista and former Justice Minister Anderson Torres, among others.

The president of Bolsonaro's political party, Valdemar Costa Neto, was arrested when a raid of his home in Brasilia turned up an unregistered firearm, according to sources.

Bolsonaro's former international affairs adviser Filipe Martins was one of four others targeted with arrest warrants, the sources said.

A lawyer for Martins said he was awaiting access to the arrest warrant and supporting evidence before commenting.

Reuters attempted to contact other targets of the police operation and their lawyers, but received no immediate response.

Police said in their statement that the targets of Thursday's operation formed a group in 2022 spreading claims of electoral fraud "even before the election took place" to "legitimize a military intervention."

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in the 2022 election, said the coup attempt had to be investigated to keep it from happening again.

"Without Bolsonaro there would have been no coup attempt," Lula said in a radio interview.

A week after Lula took office in January 2023, Bolsonaro supporters who were camped outside army headquarters invaded and vandalized government buildings in Brasilia, calling for a military takeover.

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