After two months in prison, the ex-governor of Brasília is again a free man. By a vote of 8 to 5, Brazil’s federal appellate court (Superior Tribunal de Justiça – STJ) decided to release the former governor of the Federal District, José Roberto Arruda, from the privileged accommodations he has been incarcerated in since February 11.
The privileged accommodations, standard for elected officials in Brazil, consisted of rooms in the Federal Police headquarters, rather than a cell in the federal prison, Papuda.
In its decision the court said that having been removed from office, the former governor could no longer hinder or obstruct the investigations into corruption in the Federal District.
When Arruda drove away there was cheering and jeering in favor and against him by demonstrators.
Arruda, of course, still faces criminal charges (the case is known as “Inquiry #650”). And what happens next could be the real test of the Brazilian judicial system.
The arrest of a sitting governor was unprecedented and assuaged the anger many feel about politicians in general and the generalized frustration with the judicial system.
But it was exceptional. Will Arruda ever go on trial? A real trial where he is formally charged, faces his accusers and a judge, and is able to defend himself? All that remains to be seen.