Brazil’s Supreme Court handed a 17-year prison sentence Thursday to a supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed top government offices on Jan. 8 in an alleged bid to forcefully restore the right-wing leader to office.
Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira, 51, is the first of several participants in the uprising to be prosecuted.
In January, cameras at the Senate filmed him wearing a shirt calling for a military coup and recording a video of himself praising others who had also broken into the building. Almost 1,500 people were detained on the day of the riots, though most have been released.
The majority of the 11 justices of the court ruled that Pereira committed five crimes: criminal association; staging a coup; violent attack on the rule of law; qualified damage; and destruction of public assets. They sentenced him to 17 years in prison.
Pereira denied any wrongdoing and claimed he took part in a peaceful demonstration of unarmed people.
Three other defendants also were standing trial Thursday as part of the same case, and a final decision for each defendant could drag into coming days.
The rioters refused to accept Bolsonaro’s defeat to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose inauguration took place one week before the uprising. Lula, who also governed Brazil between 2003-2010, beat Bolsonaro by the narrowest margin in Brazil’s modern history.
The buildings of Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace were trashed by the pro-Bolsonaro rioters. They bypassed security barricades, climbed onto roofs, smashed windows and invaded all three buildings, which were largely vacant on the weekend of the incident.
Lula has accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the uprising, as have many of Bolsonaro’s critics, and prosecutors are investigating his role in inciting the mayhem. The former president has denied any wrongdoing.
The incident recalled the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Politicians warned for months that a similar uprising was a possibility in Brazil, given that Bolsonaro had sown doubt about the reliability of the nation’s electronic voting system — without any evidence.