SAO PAULO — Judges at Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court began deliberating the sentence Wednesday for those accused of breaking into government offices on Jan. 8 in an alleged attempt to forcibly return former President Jair Bolsonaro to office .
The case of Aécio Lúcio Costa Pereira, 51 years old and Bolsonaro supporter, is the first to be analyzed.
In January, Senate cameras caught him wearing a T-shirt calling for a coup and videotaping him praising others who had also broken into the building. Nearly 1,500 people were arrested on the day of the riots, but most were released.
Pereira denied committing any improper act and claimed he was taking part in a peaceful demonstration by unarmed people.
The first two judges to issue a verdict had different positions on the crimes allegedly committed, but both found that the former president’s supporter was guilty. The Supreme Federal Court consists of 11 judges.
Judge Alexandre de Moraes, rapporteur of the case at Brazil’s highest court, found Pereira guilty of five crimes and set his sentence at 17 years in prison.
Another judge, Kássio Nunes Marques, ruled that he should be sent to prison for two felonies, which would keep him behind bars for two years and six months. Nunes Marques, who was elected to office by Bolsonaro, said there was not enough evidence to jail Pereira for crimes committed by a criminal organization, a coup or a violent attack on the rule of law.
The trial was adjourned to Thursday.
Pereira’s ruling will depend on the votes of the nine remaining justices who have not yet voted.
Three other defendants also appeared in court on Wednesday in the same case, but the final decision on each of them could take several days.
The rioters refused to accept the right-wing president’s defeat by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose inauguration took place a week before the revolt. The leftist Lula also ruled Brazil from 2003 to 2010, defeating Bolsonaro by the narrowest margin in Brazil’s modern history.
The agitators caused enormous damage to Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace. They jumped over security barricades, climbed onto roofs, broke windows and broke into the three buildings, which were believed to have been largely empty on the weekend of the incident.
Lula accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the revolt.
The incident was reminiscent of the attack on the US Federal Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Several politicians warned for months that a similar uprising could occur in Brazil as Bolsonaro expressed doubts about the reliability of the country’s electronic voting system without providing any evidence.