The Long, Muddy Slog

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Brazil’s Supreme Court began trying hundreds of former conservative President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters, who stormed and vandalized the country’s three main governmental buildings in January, the Financial Times reported.

On Wednesday, the court heard the cases of four men on a slew of charges, including seeking to abolish the democratic rule of law and violence against property of the state.

Nearly 1,400 defendants will be tried by the 11-judge tribunal, which has signaled it will take a hard line to punish those involved, according to Le Monde.

On Jan. 8, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters marched on the capital, Brasilia, to protest against President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in last year’s presidential elections. Protesters then stormed Brasilia’s Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Square) which houses the country’s Congress, the Presidential Palace, and the Supreme Court.

Bolsonaro, who was in Florida at the time, denied involvement in the riots. Still, Brazilian authorities are looking into whether the former leader instigated rioters with social media posts.

Lula’s administration has described the incident as an attempted “coup.”

Legal analyst Rafael Maefi told the FT that Brazil has “a history of leniency with coups,” adding that tough convictions will be “essential to reinforce the message that political violence and attempting to overthrow elected governments are serious crimes that do not deserve tolerance.”

Brazilian prosecutors have asked for sentences of up to 30 years. Observers said the crime of attempting to overthrow the state alone carries a sentence of up to 12 years.

Meanwhile, authorities have launched a series of probes into Bolsonaro, including one involving the attempted sale of jewelry given to the former leader and his close associates by foreign dignitaries.

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