Bolsonaro critic targeted by Brazil police cries foul

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


A leading critic of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the online influencer Felipe Neto, said Saturday he was the victim of a smear campaign after police sought to have him charged with corrupting minors.

Neto, a 32-year-old YouTuber named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people this year, has emerged as a prominent critic of Brazil's far-right president.

Police in Rio de Janeiro said Thursday they had placed him under investigation at the justice ministry's request.

In a statement, they said they would ask prosecutors to charge him "for publishing material inappropriate for children and adolescents on his YouTube channel and failing to impose an age limit on videos with language and content inappropriate for minors."

Neto denied wrongdoing and said the investigation was "an absurd case of persecution."

"Persecuting opposition communicators with slanderous criminal accusations in an attempt to silence them is a move typical of the worst dictatorships," he wrote on Twitter.

Police did not give further details on the accusation, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neto, one of Brazil's biggest social media personalities, gained international prominence earlier this year when he recorded an opinion video for the New York Times in which he called Bolsonaro the world's worst president, and urged Americans not to vote for the Brazilian leader's ally Donald Trump.

The investigation against Neto took on political overtones when Bolsonaro's minister for women, the family and human rights, Damares Alves, tweeted a link to a news story about it Saturday, adding: "In this country we have people who stand up for children!"

Neto has for months been the target of a fake news campaign online accusing him of pedophilia.

In July, a group of 37 civil society groups including to Order of Brazilian Lawyers condemned the "defamatory campaign" against him, saying such practices "should not exist in a democracy."

However, the accusations have continued to circulate in far-right groups.