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Brazil police seizing Bolsonaro passport, arresting close aides

launching ceremony of the national green growth program, at the planalto palace in brasilia
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil’s federal police on Thursday sought to confiscate former President Jair Bolsonaro’s passport and arrest some of his closest aides, sources said, as part of an investigation into an alleged coup attempt after he lost the 2022 election.

The operation reflects a tightening net around Bolsonaro, his family and some of his most powerful allies for actions before and after his unsuccessful reelection effort. The confiscation of his passport will be especially worrying for the former president, a far-right firebrand who cast himself as a Brazilian version of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

A federal police source directly involved in Thursday’s operation said seized passports can indicate the possibility of future arrests, forcing suspects to stay in Brazil to face any charges.

Bolsonaro has already been ruled politically ineligible until 2030 for spreading election falsehoods, and faces several other criminal probes that could land him in jail. He has denied wrongdoing and calls the investigations politically motivated.

Last week, in another sign of Bolsonaro’s mounting legal woes, federal police searched properties linked to his son, Carlos Bolsonaro. The Rio de Janeiro city councillor, who has denied wrongdoing, is suspected of using data illegally collected by spy agency Abin to attack his father’s rivals.

Police visited Bolsonaro’s beach house on Thursday and told him to hand over his passport, said three sources, who requested anonymity to discuss an active operation. The former president will comply with the order, Bolsonaro family spokesman Fabio Wajngarten said on social media.

In a statement on Thursday, the federal police did not name the targets of the operation, but said they are accused of participating in “a criminal organization that acted in an attempted coup d’etat” aimed at “keeping the then-President of the Republic in power.”

The sources said search warrants were also issued for properties linked to Walter Braga Netto, Bolsonaro’s former running mate; Augusto Heleno, his former national security adviser; former Defense Minister Paulo Nogueira Batista and former Justice Minister Anderson Torres, among others.

Bolsonaro’s former international affairs advisor Felipe Martins is one of four people arrested, the sources said.

Reuters attempted to contact the targets of the police operation and their lawyers, but received no immediate response.

Police said in their statement that the targets of Thursday’s operation formed a group in 2022 spreading claims of electoral fraud “even before the election took place” to “legitimize a military intervention.”

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in the 2022 election, said the coup attempt had to be investigated to keep it from happening again.

“Without Bolsonaro there would have been no coup attempt,” Lula said in a radio interview.

A week after Lula took office in January 2023, Bolsonaro supporters who were camped outside army headquarters invaded and vandalized government buildings in Brasilia, calling for a military takeover.

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