A Supreme Court judge in Brazil on Friday ordered former president Jair Bolsonaro to face questioning over riots in the seat of power by his supporters on January 8 — the latest legal quagmire for the far-right leader.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes ruled Bolsonaro had to appear before federal police within 10 days to answer questions over accusations he incited the rioters, who invaded the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court calling for the ouster of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“I grant the request by the prosecutor general’s office and determine the federal police must take Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s testimony within a maximum of 10 days,” Moraes wrote in the ruling, obtained by AFP.
Moraes had previously ruled on January 13 that Bolsonaro be placed under investigation in the case.
But he had postponed a ruling on the request by prosecutors for Bolsonaro to be questioned, as the ex-president was in the US state of Florida at the time.
Bolsonaro left for Orlando in the final days of his term, after refusing to concede his defeat to Lula at the polls.
Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, narrowly beat Bolsonaro in a brutal, divisive election last October.
Thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the halls of power in Brasilia in January, a week after Lula took office.
In scenes reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 riots in Washington by supporters of ex-president Donald Trump — Bolsonaro’s political role model — they trashed offices, vandalized artworks and called for the military to intervene to oust Lula.
Prosecutors had asked for Bolsonaro to face questioning over a video he posted online — and later deleted — two days after the attacks, in which he questioned the legitimacy of Lula’s election.
However, they said their probe of the ex-president would not be limited to the video, but a “full investigation of all acts before and after January 8.”
More than 1,800 people were arrested over the events of January 8.
They include Bolsonaro’s former justice minister Anderson Torres, who was Brasilia’s public security chief at the time of the riots.
Investigators are probing whether the rioters had inside help from high up in Bolsonaro’s camp.
Bolsonaro, who denies any involvement in the riots, returned to Brazil on March 30, vowing to oppose Lula’s government.
But he faces numerous legal woes back home.
He already faced questioning by federal police last week in a separate case, over accusations he tried to illegally keep millions of dollars’ worth of diamond jewelry received as a gift from Saudi Arabia during his presidency.
He faces a total of four Supreme Court investigations that could send him to prison, and also 16 cases before Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
The TSE could strip him of his right to run for office for eight years, taking him out of the 2026 presidential race.