April 22, 2024

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Bolsonaro faces new legal risk after his stay at the Hungarian embassy

Bolsonaro faces new legal risk after his stay at the Hungarian embassy

Brazil's Supreme Court has ordered former President Jair Bolsonaro to explain why he spent two nights at the Hungarian embassy, ​​and Brazilian federal police have begun investigating whether the February stay violated previous court orders, police and court officials said.

The moves by the Supreme Court and federal police add to the growing legal risks facing the former Brazilian leader, and follow a New York Times investigation published on Monday that showed Bolsonaro hid in the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia days after authorities confiscated his passport because he was under criminal investigation. .

The Times report, which was based on footage captured by embassy security cameras over three days, showed that the former president appeared to be seeking political asylum from Hungary, whose prime minister is a far-right leader, Viktor Orban.

After the Times report, Bolsonaro confirmed that he remained at the embassy but declined to say why. “I have a circle of friends with some world leaders.” He told a Brazilian media outlet. “They're worried.” His lawyer then issued a statement saying that Mr. Bolsonaro's stay at the embassy was merely to talk politics and that “any other explanation” was “just another fake news.”

This account was not enough for Judge Alexandre de Moraes, of the Brazilian Supreme Court, who oversaw a series of investigations into Mr. Bolsonaro. On Monday night, Mr. Moraes gave the former president 48 hours to explain his stay at the embassy, ​​according to Mariana Oliveira, a spokeswoman for the court.

On February 8, Judge Moraes authorized raids and arrests of several of Bolsonaro's former top aides and ministers on charges of planning a coup after Bolsonaro lost the 2022 elections. As part of this operation, the judge ordered Bolsonaro to surrender his passport and not leave the country while police investigate his involvement.

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Brazilian federal police are now investigating whether Mr. Bolsonaro's stay at the Hungarian embassy violated those orders, according to a federal police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Some legal analysts in Brazil have said that Mr. Bolsonaro's apparent request for asylum could lead to his arrest if authorities believe he is likely to face criminal charges and could try in the future to evade detention.

“Bolsonaro’s move to hide in the embassy is a classic basis for pre-trial detention.” said Augusto de Arruda Botelholawyer and former Minister of National Justice of Brazil.

“It's one of those situations used as an example in textbooks and classrooms,” he added.

Brazil's Supreme Court judges have broad power, and Judge Moraes has previously acted forcefully against Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies, saying their actions threatened the country's democracy. Many right-wing Brazilians, in turn, accused Justice of abusing his power.

Two left-wing members of Brazil's Congress said on Monday that they had submitted formal requests to the Supreme Court and the public prosecutor, demanding the pretrial detention of Mr. Bolsonaro.

Mr. Bolsonaro is the target of various criminal investigations. In one case, federal police recommended criminal charges against him last week for participating in a conspiracy to falsify his coronavirus vaccination records. Prosecutors have not yet intervened in this case.

There were also repercussions for Hungarian diplomats in Brazil. The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said that it summoned Hungary's ambassador, Miklós Halmay, to explain Bolsonaro's stay at the embassy.

In a 20-minute meeting with Brazilian officials, Mr. Halmay offered the same explanation as Mr. Bolsonaro’s lawyer — that the former president was only at the embassy to talk politics, according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

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The official said that Maria Luisa Escoril, Brazil's minister for Europe and North America, told Mr. Halmay that it was highly unusual for a former president to host for several nights in a city where he also owns a home, especially since he is under crime. investigation.

Paolo Motorin Contributed reporting from Brasilia, and Leonardo Coelho From Rio de Janeiro.