First judge votes in favor of barring Bolsonaro from office in trial
Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal is trying far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on charges that he abused his office and misused state media to criticize the country's voting system.
Far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro risks losing his right to join the presidential race for eight years, as one of seven judges in Jair Bolsonaro's abuse of power trial voted on Tuesday to bar the former Brazilian President from running in the 2026 elections.
Meanwhile, the country awaits for other judges to deliver their rulings later this week.
The far-right former leader is being tried by the Superior Electoral Tribunal for unproven claims of security flaws in Brazil's electronic voting system made during a televised meeting he had with foreign diplomats in July 2022, three months before he lost the election to the leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In a statement following his vote on Tuesday night, chief judge Benedito Goncalves accused Bolsonaro of resorting to "violent speech and lies" that "endangered the credibility of electoral justice."
If found guilty, Bolsonaro could be sidelined from the 2026 vote.
The trial began late on Tuesday, and the seven judges of the court were scheduled to deliver their decisions one at a time. Goncalves cast the first vote since he was the case's chief judge.
Bolsonaro, who skipped the opening day of the trial in Brasilia last week to meet supporters and attend events in the southern city of Porto Alegre, is very certainly going to be found guilty, according to insiders.
If proven guilty of the allegations of exploiting state media and abusing his position, Bolsonaro would be prohibited from competing for public office for eight years.
If the judges did not complete their findings by Thursday, a third court hearing was planned, and the case may be continued for longer.
"Bolsonaro awaits the decision with respect," the former President's lawyer, Tarcisio Vieira, told reporters before entering the courtroom.
He said the evidence was "fragile for a sanction of that magnitude."
Bolsonaro's attorney had declared that, if required, he will file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The big picture
Bolsonaro spoke to the ambassadors for over an hour at the July 2022 conference, arguing that the electronic voting machines Brazil has been using since 1996 had damaged the integrity of the elections despite having just a PowerPoint presentation to support his claims.
Given that it was planned with state funds, hosted at the official presidential home, and broadcast live on public TV in the middle election campaign, opponents claim the event broke electoral law.
The briefing "was aimed at giving a false impression the voting process was obscure, rigged to manipulate the results and award a fraudulent victory to (his) adversary," prosecutor Paulo Gonet Branco said at last week's opening hearing.
Bolsonaro's lawyer, Tarcisio Vieira, rebuffed the allegations.
Many people compared Bolsonaro's unsupported claims of election fraud and the January 8 riots to those of his political hero, Donald Trump, and his efforts to maintain power despite losing the 2020 US presidential election.
The accusations surged to the forefront again on January 8, when his supporters staged riots in the presidential palace, Supreme Court, and Congress a week after Lula's inauguration, claiming that the elections had been fraudulent and demanding that the military intervene.
Bolsonaro, who spent three months in the US state of Florida after his election loss, has made few public appearances since returning to Brazil in March to serve as honorary president of his Liberal Party (PL).
He faces a raft of other legal woes, from five Supreme Court investigations that could potentially send him to jail -- including over the January 8 riots -- to police probes into allegations of a faked Covid-19 vaccination certificate and diamond jewelry snuck into Brazil from Saudi Arabia.