Up to 17 years in prison were imposed on Thursday on three supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, found guilty of attempted coup d’état during the Brasilia riots in January.

A large majority of the Supreme Court’s 11 judges found Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira, 51, and Thiago Mathar, 43, guilty of the five charges against them. They were respectively sentenced to 17 and 14 years in prison.

Later Thursday evening, the Court also sentenced Matheus Lima de Carvalho to 17 years in prison.

January 8 “was not a Sunday stroll. It was a Sunday of devastation, the day of infamy,” said Rosa Weber, president of the highest court in the country, where this first trial of Bolsonarist riots began on Wednesday.

A week after the inauguration of left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, thousands of people refusing to accept his election against Jair Bolsonaro had descended on the emblematic Three Powers Square in Brasilia, the heart of Brazilian democracy.

Protesters invaded the presidential palace, Parliament and the Supreme Court, in scenes reminiscent of the storming of the Capitol in Washington by supporters of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.

The damage was considerable, with, beyond broken windows or torn seats, the destruction of works of art of inestimable value, in futuristic buildings designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira, originally from the state of Sao Paulo, was found guilty of attempted coup d’état, criminal association and deterioration of classified public heritage.

He will also have to pay a fine, and contribute to compensation “for moral harm and collective material damage” of 30 million reais (approximately 5.8 million euros), with the other people convicted for these riots.

“The objective was, by using violence, to put Brasilia under siege and to spread throughout the country the practice of criminal acts that undermine the rule of law,” denounced judge Cristiano Zanin .

For judge rapporteur Alexandre de Moraes, the demonstrators wanted to “convince the army to join a coup d’état”.

He showed a video shared by Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira on social networks in which he had filmed himself in the Senate chamber, celebrating the invasion and wearing a t-shirt flanked by the words “Military intervention”.

His lawyer affirmed that his client was the victim of a “political trial” and that unlike other Bolsonarists, he “did not commit the slightest act of violence”.

The second convict, Thiago Mathar, was seen in the presidential palace during the riots.

According to his defence, he only entered there to take shelter during clashes between the police and the rioters on the Three Powers Square.

“He just wanted a better Brazil, he was not there to sow disorder,” his lawyer said.

This did not prevent the majority of judges from sentencing him to 14 years in prison.

During the trial of the third rioter, Matheus Lima de Carvalho, the reporting judge showed images that he sent to his partner, in which he recommended “breaking everything” so that “the army comes” into action.

In total, Brazilian prosecutors have initiated proceedings against 232 people.

On Thursday, Brazilian police arrested three people in Foz de Iguazu (South) suspected of participating in the riots.

During the riots, the police seemed totally overwhelmed, while intelligence services had reported the massive arrival of supporters of the former head of state by bus the day before in the political capital.

This lack of preparation was all the more surprising since the Bolsonaristas were mobilized the day after his defeat in the October presidential election, demonstrating in front of barracks to demand military intervention.

Jair Bolsonaro, who was in the United States on January 8, is under investigation to determine whether he played a role in instigating the violence. He categorically denies any involvement.

At the end of June, he was sentenced to eight years of ineligibility for disseminating false information about the electoral system before the vote.

Investigators are also looking into responsibilities within the army and police in the events of January 8.

Last month, members of the high command of the military police in Brasilia were arrested for “omission”, with the prosecution also citing “deep ideological contamination” within the police.

15/09/2023 05:31:27 –         Brasilia (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP