Brazil’s Supreme Court sentences first riot defendant to 17 years 

Brazil’s Supreme Court has declared a 17-year sentence for the primary defendant tried and convicted for joining a mob of previous President Jair Bolsonaro’s allies that stormed state establishments in Brasilia in January. 

A majority of the Supreme Court’s judges on Thursday voted in favour of sentencing Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira on charges that included armed criminal association, damage to historic buildings, and an attempted coup, Associated Press reported. 

It was the first verdict given over the Jan. 8 riot, which shook a country that remains profoundly divided over Bolsonaro’s election defeat last year to his left side wing rival, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. 

Brazil is pushing to consider participants in the January attack responsible and send a firm message that endeavors to subvert a democratic government won’t go on without serious consequences.  

“We have turned the page on the days of coups,” Brazilian prosecutor Carlos Frederico Santos told the court as the trials began on Wednesday. “Those who embrace the spurious idea that power can be won through violence and in violation of constitutional norms must respond for the resulting crimes,” he added.  

The riot broke out seven days after Lula was officially sworn into office after he crushed Bolsonaro, a former army captain, in a hard-fought presidential run-off in October last year. 

Bolsonaro’s allies stormed the country’s Supreme Court, as well as the official presidential palace and Congress building, after many of them spent weeks calling the military to challenge Lula’s election victory. 

The attack drew comparisons to the U.S. Capitol riot in January 6, 2021, when a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol building with an end goal to roll back his loss to Joe Biden. 

The 51-year-old Pereira, who was arrested in the Senate building during the riot in Brasilia, contended on Wednesday that he had just partaken in a peaceful demonstration. 

Pereira’s lawyers told the court their client was unarmed and committed no acts of violence. Defence lawyer Sebastiao Coelho da Silva referred to the trial as “politically motivated”. 

Three of the Supreme Court’s judges ruled on Thursday to convict Pereira on just part of the five charges he faced, including lesser counts such as destruction of property. While eight others ruled to convict him on each of the five counts, including violent uprising contrary to law and order and an attempted coup. 

“The [rioters’] objective was to violently seize Brasilia and spread a criminal attack against the rule of law across the country,” Justice Cristiano Zanin said while delivering his ruling. 

Bolsonaro himself has faced scrutiny over his activities encompassing the mob, talking with the police in April and denying any involvement in what he depicted as “unfortunate” events. 

In the months paving the way to last year’s presidential race, Bolsonaro caused alarm by spreading misleading claims that the nation’s voting system was vulnerable against far reaching fraud and proposing that he wouldn’t accept defeat. 

In June, the country’s highest electoral court barred him from serving in a position of authority until 2030 over his conduct ahead of the vote. 

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