RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he would pardon an allied federal congressman who was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison by the Supreme Court, a move likely to heighten tensions between the nation’s executive and judiciary during an election year.
In a 10-1 ruling on Wednesday, Brazil’s top court, known as the STF, established that Silveira had interfered with the “free exercise” of government and had threatened the nation’s judicial authorities.
Silveira, a right-wing former police officer from Rio de Janeiro, provoked controversy in 2021 after questioning the integrity of several STF ministers, calling on supporters to invade the court and saying that an anti-democratic decree in place during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship should be reinstituted.
Bolsonaro’s move is the latest escalation in his feud with the court, and could add to the likelihood of a constitutional crisis ahead of October’s presidential vote, in which Bolsonaro is seeking re-election.
His opponents had cheered the verdict. They maintain that the right-wing former army captain and his cohorts are a threat to democracy, and some fear he may not concede if he loses in October, especially as he has baselessly argued that the nation’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud.
Bolsonaro and his allies have complained of increasing judicial overreach by the STF. They criticized the Wednesday ruling as a politically motivated threat to free speech.
The president couched his decision to pardon Silveira as a defense of the “inviolability of opinion” granted by the nation’s constitution.
Leftist politicians questioned the pardon’s legality.
“The mission of Bolsonaro and of ‘Bolsonarismo’ is to mess with the Constitution,” Senator Randolfe Rodrigues from the northern state of Amapa wrote on Twitter. “We won’t allow it!”
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Stephen Coates)