Brazil AG files racism suit against far-right presidential candidate

Brasília (Brazil) (AFP) –


Brazil's top prosecutor has filed a complaint against far-right firebrand and presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro for "racism" against Afro-Brazilians, indigenous peoples, refugees, women and members of the LGBT community.

The formal complaint, filed on Friday by the attorney general's office, will now head to the Supreme Court.

Should the court find him guilty of racism before October's presidential election, Bolsonaro could be barred from the vote. The ex-army captain has been polling a distant second behind Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's recently-jailed ex-president.

However, the slow pace of Brazil's judicial system was likely to weigh in the 63-year-old's favor, according to the JOTA news website, which specializes in legal matters.

If convicted he could face a prison sentence of between one and three years, said the attorney general's office which has also asked he be fined a minimum of $117,500 (95,000 euros) for "collective moral damages."

Bolsonaro, a veteran rightwing congressman who has praised the use of torture as well as Brazil's two-decade-long military dictatorship, has denounced lawsuit as an "unfounded attack."

Bolsonaro has run a campaign heavily focused on his tough-guy approach to law and order, and has worked hard to capitalize on the widespread dislike of Lula.

At an event in Rio's Hebraica Club in April 2017, Bolsonaro "used expressions of a discriminatory nature, inciting hatred," the complaint said, citing remarks about women, homosexuals and the descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves, known as quilombolas, whom he spoke about "as if they were animals."

In response, Bolsonaro's spokesman decried the "unfounded attacks" aimed at generating "sensationalist news" by smearing "the greatest political phenomenon Brazil has seen in recent years."

Bolsonaro will have "no difficulty in showing in court that he is not racist," the spokesman said.

In 2017, Bolsonaro was ordered to pay damages to leftwing deputy Maria do Rosario for saying he wouldn't rape her because she was "ugly" and "not worth it."

Although his remarks caused uproar in Brazil, the ruling did not affect his plans to run for the presidency because it was a civil offense and not a criminal one.

With just six months left until the election and the frontrunner now behind bars, the outcome of the vote remains uncertain.