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Authorities in Brazil have arrested top police commanders in the country’s capital for alleged involvement in riots by radical supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who attacked government buildings earlier this year.

Seven senior officers of the Brasilia gendarmerie were detained on Friday by order of the Supreme Court after prosecutors said they failed to act adequately to prevent the violence and vandalism on Jan. 8.

The judge who issued the arrest warrant said there were “strong indications” that the crime that has rocked Latin America’s largest democracy was possible because of the involvement of agents or deliberate inaction. The Brazilian Gendarmerie is a heavily armed force whose mission is to maintain law and order.

Prosecutors said messages found on the defendants’ phones showed an “ideological alignment” with the rioters, who rejected Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat.

The far-right populist was narrowly defeated at the ballot box by leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who started his third presidential term just days before the incident .

Thousands of protesters invaded Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, leveling them before law enforcement regained control over the next few hours.

Lula described the actions as an attempted coup, comparing it to the insurrection in the U.S. Congress two years ago by followers of former President Donald Trump.

The arrests come amid further pressure on Bolsonaro and his allies over the events that sparked the unrest.

The anti-establishment politician has been banned from running for office for eight years for campaign violations. Bolsonaro has repeatedly insisted, without evidence, that the country’s electronic voting devices are vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.

This week, parliament launched an investigation into alleged anti-democratic practices, with a computer programmer claiming he was paid by supporters of Bolsonaro to try and unsuccessfully hack into the electoral system. He said the then president would pardon him if he was arrested. Bolsonaro has denied the claim.

The attorney general’s office said the defendants, who were detained on Friday but have not yet been charged, knew in advance of the risk of the attack but that insufficient police officers were deployed.

It described the individuals as “followers of election fraud conspiracy theories” and said it influenced their behaviour.

They were charged with crimes such as coup d’état, vandalism of public property and failure to perform policing duties.

A Supreme Court document said the targeted officials included Klepter Rosa, the current commander of the capital’s gendarmerie; his former chief at the time of the attack; and five other senior members of the force. Rosa could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Beatrice Langella


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