Brazil begins trials of pro-Bolsonaro rioters who stormed government offices

© Sergio Lima / AFP/File

Brazil's Supreme Court opened the first trials Wednesday over the January 8 riots by supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, putting four accused in the dock in one of the buildings invaded that day.

The trial opened with the lead judge on the case, Alexandre de Moraes, ruling to convict the first accused -- a 51-year-old man named Aecio Pereira -- and recommending he be sentenced to 17 years in prison for his actions, which included invading the floor of the Senate in a T-shirt marked "Military Intervention."

The court's 11 justices will deliver their decisions one by one in each case, with a majority needed to secure a conviction.

Moraes said the rioters, who also ransacked the presidential palace and Congress, carried out a "criminal invasion aimed at illegally seizing power via a military coup and violently overthrowing (the) democratically elected government" of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Brasilia riots deeply shook a nation still divided by veteran leftist Lula's narrow win over Bolsonaro in the October 2022 presidential race, and drew inevitable comparisons to the invasion of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro's political role model.

Outraged over Bolsonaro's loss to Lula, thousands of his supporters overwhelmed security to storm the seat of power a week after Lula's inauguration, calling for a military intervention to oust the newly installed president.

But prosecutors said the first accused had openly incited a coup.


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