Brazil’s Supreme Court on Thursday voted 9 to 1 to keep the governor of the Federal District, José Roberto Arruda, in jail, denying his lawyer’s second writ of habeas corpus in a case in which Arruda and others are accused of trying to bribe a witness in a Federal Police investigation known as Pandora’s Box.
Three weeks ago the federal appellate court (STJ) ordered Arruda and five others to be incarcerated acting on a lawsuit brought by the chief federal prosecutor and a government attorney following the release of a videotape showing the bribery attempt.
At that time, a first habeas corpus was denied by a single Supreme Court justice (on emergency duty) who, among other things, declared that it was not necessary for two-thirds of the local Federal District Legislative Assembly (CLDF) to give prior approval before the governor could be imprisoned even though this is in the Federal District constitution.
Interestingly, the only vote against denying habeas corpus yesterday was based on the opinion that there is a need to follow Federal District legislation, which requires approval of a two-thirds majority of the CLDF to imprison the governor. The contrary vote was by the newest member of the court, justice Dias Toffoli.
In a verbal opinion against Toffoli’s reasoning, justice Carmen Lucia declared that the temporary imprisonment of Arruda was absolutely necessary for the continuation of Pandora’s Box investigations.
Arruda’s lawyer, Nelio Machado, said his client was the victim of a moral lynching. And that his arrest was “an unnameable violence,” and that since his imprisonment he has received “disparate and unequal” treatment in court.
Machado went on to say that the arrest of Arruda was the result of a “plot” hatched between the appellate court (STJ) and government prosecutors. That accusation was denied by the deputy chief prosecutor, Deborah Duprat, who pointed out that since the governor’s arrest new evidence in the case has been uncovered.
There were only 19 deputies present Thursday for the vote on the impeachment motion against governor José Roberto Arruda (five deputies were absent). But when the vote took place it was a total reversal of fortune for Arruda: all 19 voted in favor of the motion.
Just a short time ago Arruda was a governor with 19 allies in the assembly. As of now, the bureaucratic machinery goes into motion, a timetable is in operation and there are specific deadlines. First, Arruda’s lawyers have 20 days to present the governor’s defense.
If the motion makes it through the next stages, including a special committee, it will go to the floor of the assembly where, in a final vote, it must get approval of 16 deputies to be passed.