Brazil’s Supreme Court has handed down a 17-year sentence to the first defendant tried and convicted for participating in the storming of state institutions in Brasilia earlier this year. The verdict, announced on Thursday, marks the first ruling related to the January 8 riot that shook the deeply divided country following President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s victory over his left-wing rival. The court’s majority of justices voted in favor of the conviction, aiming to hold individuals accountable and send a strong message against efforts to undermine democracy.
The riot occurred a week after Lula’s inauguration, with supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, storming the Supreme Court, presidential palace, and Congress building. The attack drew comparisons to the events in the United States on January 6, 2021, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump breached the US Capitol. The defendant, a 51-year-old named Pereira, was arrested in the Senate building during the riot and claimed to have participated in a peaceful demonstration. However, the court convicted him on some of the charges, including destruction of property, as well as more severe counts such as violent uprising against the rule of law and an attempted coup.
Justice Cristiano Zanin stated that the objective of the rioters was to violently seize Brasilia and launch a criminal attack against the rule of law throughout the country. Bolsonaro himself has faced scrutiny over his actions surrounding the riot, denying any involvement and describing the events as “unfortunate.” Prior to the presidential election, Bolsonaro spread false claims about the vulnerability of the country’s voting system to widespread fraud and hinted at not accepting defeat. In June, the highest electoral court in Brazil barred him from holding public office until 2030 due to his conduct leading up to the vote.