Brazilian police launch investigation into Bolsonaro's 2-night sleepover at Hungarian embassy

FILE - Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro prepares to speak to the press in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, June 30, 2023, the day that judges ruled him ineligible to run for any political office again until 2030 after concluding that he abused his power and cast unfounded doubts on the country's electronic voting system. According to a Federal Police indictment unveiled Tuesday, March 19, 2024, Bolsonaro turned to an aide-de-camp and asked him to insert false data into the public health system to make it appear as though he and his daughter had received the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to have the necessary vaccination certificate required by U.S. authorities for their 2023 trip to Florida. (AP Photo/Thomas Santos, File) (Thomas Santos, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAO PAULO – Brazil's Federal Police on Monday launched an investigation into former President Jair Bolsonaro's two-night stay last month at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia, amid widespread speculation from his opponents that he may have been attempting to evade arrest.

A Federal Police source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to The Associated Press that it was undertaken in response to a report from The New York Times, which featured security camera video of the Hungarian ambassador welcoming Bolsonaro on Feb. 12 and footage of Bolsonaro from the rest of his stay. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of the leaders of a global far-right movement, is a key international ally of his.

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The visit took place just days after Federal Police seized Bolsonaro’s Brazilian passport and raided the homes of his top aides as part of a probe into whether they plotted to ignore 2022 election results and stage an uprising to keep the defeated leader in power.

Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing regarding this investigation, and multiple others targeting him.

Were the Federal Police to obtain an arrest warrant for the former president, officers would not have jurisdiction to enter the Hungarian embassy due to diplomatic conventions restricting access.

Bolsonaro’s lawyers said in a statement on Monday that there was nothing amiss about his embassy stay.

“In the days he was at the Hungarian embassy, by invitation, the former Brazilian president spoke to countless authorities from the friendly country for updates on the political scenarios of both nations,” his lawyers said in the statement. “Any other interpretations ... constitute an evidently fictional work, with no connection to the reality of the facts.”

Speaking at his party's headquarters in Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro told supporters he gets many calls from Orbán to discuss politics.

“To this day I have a relationship with some heads of state around the world,” Bolsonaro said. “If I had my passport, I would have traveled to Israel.”

Brazil's foreign ministry said in a short statement that it had summoned Hungary's ambassador Miklos Halmai to explain why Bolsonaro was his guest at the embassy.

Bolsonaro flew to the U.S. in the final days of his term, in December 2022, just days before his supporters stormed the capital in a failed bid to oust President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from power. He remained in South Florida for three months.

Some of Bolsonaro's political rivals seized on the news Monday to call for his arrest, alleging that he once again is signaling plans to escape.

“These images just reinforce that Bolsonaro is a confessed fugitive,” Alexandre Padilha, Lula's minister of institutional relations, told reporters in Brasilia, citing Bolsonaro's stint in the U.S. last year. “But what the courts and the Federal Police will do with these images (published by The New York Times) isn't for me to say.”

Augusto de Arruda Botelho, a criminal lawyer who has been an outspoken critic of the former president, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that “Bolsonaro’s act of hiding in the embassy is a classic motive for decreeing preventive detention."

"It is one of those situations used as an example in books and classrooms,” he added.


This story has been corrected to show that Bolsonaro’s Brazilian passport was seized rather than his Brazilian and Italian passports.


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