Bolsonaro’s trial on abuse of political power charges begins in Brazil

By Julia Vargas Jones, Duarte Mendonca and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN

CNN  —  Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s trial on charges of abuse of political power and misuse of public media began in the country’s highest electoral court on Thursday in Brasilia.

The charges stem from a meeting Bolsonaro held with foreign diplomats in July 2022, in which he is accused of spreading false information about Brazil’s electoral system and bringing its credibility into question – a strategy the former president used in his reelection campaign.

If found guilty, Bolsonaro could be ruled ineligible to run for public office for up to eight years.

In Thursday’s court session, a report from Judge Benedito Gonçalves on the case was read aloud and both sides presented their arguments. The trial has now been adjourned until next week. Proceedings could be extended by months if any of the judges request more information.

The far right Bolsonaro has said the charges are not justified, and trivialized the proceedings in an exclusive interview with CNN Brasil on Wednesday, describing them as a “storm in a glass of water.”

“It was just discussed with them [the ambassadors] how the electoral system worked. I didn’t mention the word’ fraud’ there regarding future elections,” he said, adding: “I spoke of the Federal Police inquiry in November 2018 that, to date, has not been concluded. Only that. What is the problem discussing this matter?”

According to the report from Judge Gonçalves, the former president allegedly said the 2022 elections might be compromised due to fraud in his meeting with the ambassadors.

Bolsonaro also allegedly said that in 2018 voting machines changed voters’ choices to benefit his opponent, that the Brazilian voting machines are not auditable, and also insinuated that electoral and judicial authorities were protecting “terrorists,” the report added.

Such claims of flaws in the electoral system have all been denied by Brazil’s electoral authorities. The livestream of the 2022 meeting, which was once available through official channels, was taken down by YouTube for not complying with its fake news policy.

The case began with a lawsuit brought on by Brazil’s Democratic Labor Party against both Bolsonaro and Walter Braga Netto, his running mate in the 2022 elections.

Bolsonaro lost last year’s election by the narrowest margin in decades against current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Riots on January 8 saw pro-Bolsonaro protesters breaking into government buildings in Brasilia, following weeks of demonstrations over the election results.

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