Brazilian raids seek coup plot evidence

FILE - Carlos Bolsonaro, son of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro who is running for re-election, whispers in his father's ear during his arrival at the presidential debate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 29, 2022. Brazil's federal police carried out a search warrant Jan. 29, 2024 for Carlos Bolsonaro, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, an officer with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press.  (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
FILE - Carlos Bolsonaro, son of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro who is running for re-election, whispers in his father's ear during his arrival at the presidential debate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 29, 2022. Brazil's federal police carried out a search warrant Jan. 29, 2024 for Carlos Bolsonaro, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, an officer with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)


RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian police on Thursday searched homes and offices of former President Jair Bolsonaro's top aides in an investigation alleging they plotted a coup and that the ex-president was aware of the plan, court documents showed.

The alleged plot in the event Bolsonaro lost the 2022 election involved having him sign a decree declaring the vote fraudulent to justify a possible military intervention and convene new elections. Though Bolsonaro did lose the election, the right-wing leader never issued the decree to set the final stage of the alleged plot into motion.

Bolsonaro was not himself a target of Thursday's searches, but like others was ordered to forfeit his passport, according to a decision by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes made public Thursday.

Police said in a statement that they searched several homes and offices of suspects who "acted to attempt a coup d'etat" that would have kept Bolsonaro in power after his October 2022 election defeat to leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Police alleged the group had prepared to allege voting fraud "in order to enable and legitimize a military intervention."

Supreme Court documents authorizing the searches show that police claim that Filipe Martins, a special adviser, presented Bolsonaro a draft decree ahead of the election that included ordering the arrest of two Supreme Court justices, including Moraes, who presided over the election body overseeing the election.

Bolsonaro is alleged to have asked to have several items removed from the decree, while keeping a call for new elections and modifying the order to arrest only one of the Supreme Court justices -- de Moraes. Bolsonaro is also alleged to have called a meeting with the heads of the armed forces to present the modified plan and get them to "adhere" to it.

The targets of Thursday's 33 searches included Martins, and Bolsonaro's 2022 running mate, Gen. Walter Braga Netto; a former adviser, Gen. Augusto Heleno; former Justice Minister Anderson Torres and the head of Bolsonaro's Liberal Party, Valdemar Costa Neto, the decision said.

Bolsonaro's lawyer, Fabio Wajngarten, said on X, formerly Twitter, that Bolsonaro would comply with the order to hand over his passport. A Bolsonaro aide among the search targets was with the former president at the time of the Thursday morning operation, Wajngarten said.

The aide was asked to return to Brazil's capital, Brasilia, to put Bolsonaro in compliance with an order not to have any contact with individuals under investigation, the lawyer said.

Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo, said Thursday's revelations were a major turn of events for Bolsonaro.

"Until now, he could always say he didn't know about this," Melo said. But the content of the Supreme Court decision, a 135-page long document, suggests this is no longer the case, he said.

The investigation is alleged to have found evidence of meetings between public officials and members of the military to discuss the way in which the government and armed forces could back and even finance pro-Bolsonaro protestors. Several top members of the military were targeted by search warrants Thursday.

The investigation claims officials monitored the movements of de Moraes, presumably to arrest him if the draft decree was issued.

  photo  FILE - Flavio Bosonaro, center, and Carlos Bolsonaro, sons of Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, attend a ceremony officially confirming the presidential elections results which their dad won at the Supreme Electoral Court in Brasilia Brazil, Dec. 10, 2018. Brazil's federal police carried out a search warrant Jan. 29, 2024 for Carlos Bolsonaro, a Rio de Janeiro city councilman, an officer with knowledge of the operation told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Alexandre Ramagem, the director of Brazil's intelligence agency ABIN, arrives for the ceremony presenting the National Vaccination Plan Against COVID-19 at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 16, 2020. Ramagem is among those targeted by search warrants police carried out the morning of Jan. 25, 2024 as part of a probe into alleged spying on political opponents under former President Jair Bolsonaro, according to an officer with knowledge of the operations. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
 
 


  photo  Judge Alexandre de Moraes stands as he is sworn in as the new head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the government body that oversees elections, ahead of the Oct. 2 elections in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 16, 2022. De Moraes has been aggressively pursuing those suspected of undermining Brazil’s democracy, whether it's investigating former President Jair Bolsonaro, arresting protesters on slim evidence or banishing some people from social media after they were accused of spreading conspiracy theories. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
 
 


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