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Brazilian authorities rush to identify organizers of Brasilia riot

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A day after arresting hundreds of people following the riot in the Brazilian capital, Brazilian authorities focused on Tuesday on political and business elites suspected of inspiring, organizing or financing the rioters, who seized the seats of government to support the far-right ex-president.

In the most dramatic example of this twist, prosecutors on Tuesday asked a federal court to freeze the assets of former president Jair Bolsonaro, citing “the accountability process and the vandalism that occurred” in the capital, Brasilia, on Sunday. , when Bolsonaro supporters ransacked Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential offices.

The petition was one of several moves by authorities that highlighted the scale of their hunt to identify the ideological, logistical and financial architects of Sunday’s chaos and hold them accountable for the worst attack on Brazilian institutions since the end of a military dictatorship in 1985. .

A senior government official has been accused of “sabotaging” security at the government compound. The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of the military police chief. And the attorney general’s office had to take action against more than 100 companies suspected of aiding protesters.

The request to freeze Mr. Bolsonaro’s assets is now in the hands of a judge, but it is unclear whether the court has the legal power to freeze his accounts. And the freezing of assets, even if not challenged in court, could prove to be a long and complex process in itself.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said on Tuesday that police were already seeking arrest warrants for “people who did not come to Brasilia but who participated in the crime, who are organizers, financiers”.

A day earlier, he said authorities had focused on companies in at least 10 states suspected of providing financial assistance to those who participated in the attack. The attorney general’s office is also expected to ask a federal court to freeze the financial assets of more than 100 companies suspected of transporting rioters to the capital or providing them with free food and shelter, according to news reports. .

Supporters of Mr Bolsonaro had camped for weeks outside the army headquarters in Brasilia, espousing the false claim that the October presidential election was stolen, and some called on the army to intervene. Military and independent experts have found no credible evidence of voter fraud in the election, which was won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leftist former president who defeated Mr Bolsonaro and took office on January 1.

Mr Bolsonaro had claimed for years, without evidence, that Brazil’s electoral systems were plagued with fraud, but after the October elections he allowed a transition of power to Mr Lula. Mr Bolsonaro, who had been in the United States since before the inauguration, criticized the rioters on Sunday, saying peaceful protests were part of democracy but the “destruction and invasion of public buildings” was not.

In the aftermath of the riot, investigators also face tough questions about why rioters were able to enter federal government buildings so easily — and whether authorities were caught off guard, negligent or complicit in their actions. one way or another.

Some officials were quick to blame Anderson Torres, who served as Mr. Bolsonaro’s justice minister before becoming public security secretary for the Federal District, which includes Brasilia.

Ricardo Capelli, who is temporarily in charge of security in the Federal District under an emergency decree signed by Mr. Lula on Sunday, accused Mr. Torres of “sabotaging” security in the capital.

“There is no security force without a command,” Capelli told reporters on Tuesday. As soon as Mr. Torres took over on January 2, Mr. Capelli said: “Chaos ensues. Chance? I do not think so.”

The attorney general has called for Mr. Torres’ arrest and prosecutors are asking a judge to freeze his assets, as well as those of Mr. Bolsonaro and district governor Ibaneis Rocha, who was suspended from office after the riot.

There are signs that the military police are also under investigation, either for complacency or even for helping the rioters. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Fabio Augusto Vieira, head of the Federal District military police and head of the police force on Sunday.

As of Tuesday, police had arrested 527 people in connection with the riots and were still questioning hundreds more, federal police said in a statement. Some 599 people held for questioning have been released.

Some of those who invaded federal buildings filmed themselves during the riot, giving authorities a body of evidence with which to build a case.

But prosecuting many of those involved could prove difficult, legal experts said, given the need to tie defendants to specific crimes.

The presence of a person at the protest camp in Brasília, or even on the avenue of the federal buildings, may not be enough to convict, said Bruno Baghin, court-appointed lawyer and professor of law at the School of public defense of the State of São Paulo.

“Without attributing specific behavior to each individual,” he said, prosecutions could be “very flimsy.”

Flavia Milhorance, Yan Boechat and André Spigariol contributed report.

nytimes Gt

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