Brazilian police searching the house of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister found a draft decree proposing the introduction of a state of defense to overturn the result of the country’s presidential election, the ministry’s spokeswoman told CNN.
Justice Ministry spokeswoman Lorena Ribeiro said Federal Police found the document while carrying out a search and arrest warrant at the house of Anderson Torres on Tuesday.
She said it proposed implementing a “state of defense” in the Superior Electoral Court while Bolsonaro was still leader in order to overturn the victory of his rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in the October election. The draft had not been signed by Bolsonaro, Ribeiro said.
A state of defense is a legal measure that allows the sitting President to intervene in other areas of government to secure public order. While Bolsonaro lost the October election, he remained president until the end of December.
CNN has not viewed the document and Torres – who served as justice minister until the Bolsonaro administration left office – has issued a statement on social media denying he was the author of the decree.
“As Minister of Justice, we are faced with hearings, suggestions, and proposals of the most diverse types,” he wrote. “In my house there was a pile of documents to be discarded, where most likely the material described in the article was found,” he added. “Everything would be taken to be shredded at the Ministry of Justice in due course.”
Torres suggested that the decree draft had been deliberately leaked to media to discredit him.
“The cited document was picked up when I wasn’t there and leaked out of context, helping to fuel fallacious narratives against me. We were the first ministry to deliver management reports for the transition (of power),” he said. “I respect Brazilian democracy. I have a clear conscience regarding my role as minister.”
After leaving government, Torres took office as the head of Security for the Federal District of Brasilia, but was fired on Sunday after protesters breached police barriers and broke into government buildings. He had traveled to Orlando, Florida, allegedly on holiday, just days before the riots and was there as events unfolded.
Torres vowed to cut his holiday short and face justice after search and arrest warrants were issued by the Brazilian Supreme Court, denying any wrongdoing.
Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court issued Torres a preventive detention order under an arrest warrant issued on Wednesday.
The draft documents were first reported by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo on Thursday.
Brazil’s new Justice Minister Flavio Dino told CNN Brasil on Thursday the existence of the draft decree was “appalling” and said what it called for was “unconstitutional.”
“I didn’t have access to the document and according to the press reports, it was a decree for a coup d’état that emphasizes what we saw on January 8 (the day of the riots), which wasn’t an isolated case. It was an element of a chain, a link in a coup chain in Brazil that had preparatory and astonishing acts, such as a decree of military intervention in the Electoral Court, which is unconstitutional,” Dino said.
He also criticized Torres for keeping the document at his home. “A public agent, upon becoming aware of a crime, should not keep such a document at home. It is something that really shows the will of closing the Supreme Court, the Congress, of preventing the freedom of the Brazilian people to choose their rulers. And all attempts failed, including the one on January 8.”
“What can I say to the Brazilian nation is if someone gives me a document of that nature, they would be arrested, because it is criminal. I wouldn’t keep it, I wouldn’t grind it,” Dino said.