Brazil's Bolsonaro pardons lawmaker convicted at top court

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FILE - Lawmaker Daniel Silveira, who was elected to his first term representing the Social Liberal Party, points to his phone showing an image spoofing jailed, former President President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during his swearing-in ceremony at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil, Feb. 1, 2019. President Jair Bolsonaro issued a pardon late Thursday April 21, 2022 after the Supreme Court sentenced Silveira for inciting physical attacks on the courts justices and authorities, stripping him of his Congressional seat and barring him from running for any office in October's elections. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

SAO PAULO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a pardon Thursday night for a recently convicted ally, setting off backlash from adversaries claiming the president is overstepping his constitutional bounds and once again undermining the Supreme Court.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday convicted lawmaker Daniel Silveira by 10 votes to 1 for inciting physical attacks on the court’s justices as well as other authorities. He was also stripped of his seat in Congress and barred from running for any office in October’s elections.

Bolsonaro said during a live broadcast his decision “is necessary for the nation to walk on the paths determined by the constitution.” “Freedom of speech is an essential foundation of our society,” the Brazilian president said. Later, his decree insisted Silveira was convicted unduly.

Supporters of the president have repeatedly asked him to defend Silveira from what they see as political persecution.

The president has had a fractious relationship with the top court's justices since he took office in January 2019. More recently, he has targeted those who also lead the country’s top electoral authority, claiming without any evidence that the Brazilian electronic voting system could be rigged.

Bolsonaro is trailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in early polls, and many politicians and analysts see his confrontations with the court and electoral authorities as indicative he may not concede the election if he loses.

“Bolsonaro has just transformed the institution of pardons into an institutional disgrace,” Ciro Gomes, who has polled third below 10%, said on Twitter. “He is trying to accelerate in his march toward a coup. But he will not be successful.”

Gomes and other politicians promised to take Bolsonaro’s decree to the Supreme Court, arguing the president cannot make such decision based on personal interests.