Brazilian Supreme Court presses charges against 300 people involved in coup acts on January 8

By May 5, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – Last week, the Brazilian Supreme Court pressed the first charges against those involved in the January 8 coup acts. So far, 300 people are being prosecuted for their involvement in the vandalism of the federal government, Congress and the Supreme Court buildings in Brasília, the country’s capital.

The defendants are being charged for criminal association, public incitement to the animosity of the Armed Forces against constitutional powers, violent abolition of the democratic rule of law, coup attempt and damage qualified by violence and serious threat against the property of the Brazilian State.

The rapporteur for the lawsuits on the Supreme Court, Judge Alexandre de Moraes, said that the defendants tried to “destroy the democratic regime and its institutions, preaching violence, tyranny, arbitrariness and the breach of republican principles.”

He said that the Constitution does not allow the propagation of ideas against the democratic rule of law, not even public demonstrations that seek to break it. According to Moraes, acts that aim to control or destroy “the strength of critical thinking” and democratic institutions are unconstitutional.

“There will not be a democratic rule of law without state powers which are independent and in harmony with each other, as well as the provision of fundamental rights and instruments that enable the inspection and perpetuity of these requirements,” said the judge.

Brazilian Supreme Court in session. Image courtesy of Nelson Jr./SCO/STF

So far, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has filed complaints against 1,390 people. In the coming days, the Supreme Court will analyze the charges against another 250 involved in the attack. The situation is unprecedented for the court, which had never dealt with so many simultaneous charges concerning the same case.

The Supreme Court hence chose to deal with the accusations via virtual sessions. It is expected that all 1,390 complaints will be considered by June. After that, the lawsuits will begin to be judged, but there is no date for the sentences to be determined.

According to court data, of the 1,400 arrested after the acts of vandalism, 294 remain detained in Brasília – 86 women and 208 men. The others were released because they no longer represented a risk to the investigations.

Remembering what happened

A week after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro committed a series of acts of vandalism in Brasília. Angered by the former president’s defeat in the 2022 election, around four thousand people invaded and destroyed the headquarters of the federal government, the Congress and the Supreme Court.

The police and the government of Brasília were accused of omission, for not having acted forcefully to prevent the attack, which lasted almost four hours. The security secretary of Brasilia was arrested and the governor was removed from office for 90 days due to failure in security planning, which allowed the depredation of public buildings.

Bolsonaro supporters destroyed public buildings on January 8. Image courtesy of Agência Brasil

Numerous equipment, works of art and historical pieces were destroyed during the attack. The federal government decreed intervention in the security of Brasília, which was carried out by the Lula’s administration, and not by the state, for about a month, until the situation was fully under control.

Camps in front of Army barracks, set up by Bolsonaro’s supporters who questioned Lula’s victory in the election, were also dismantled after January 8. The Federal Police began to investigate not only the people who participated in the destruction of the buildings, but also the financiers and supporters of the attack, including Bolsonaro, who gave a testimony last week.