Judge suspends arrest order against former Bolsonaro cabinet minister

suspends arrest order milton ribeiro
Appellate Judge Ney Bello. Photo: Ajufe

An appellate judge issued an injunction this afternoon suspending the arrest order against Milton Ribeiro, Jair Bolsonaro’s former Education Minister — who on Wednesday was arrested for allegedly taking part in a graft scheme within the department. 

The Federal Police is investigating a scheme under which a group of Evangelical preachers controlled funds for educational projects and conditioned the release of money to kickbacks, often paid in cash or gold. Suspicious financial transactions put Mr. Ribeiro under investigation.

The Brasília-based judge also granted habeas corpus to another three suspects.

The Federal Police had ordered Mr. Ribeiro’s preventive detention, which can only be used in cases of flight risks or to prevent suspects from tampering with evidence.

Judge Ney Bello based his decision on the fact that the arrest order was confidential and that the suspects’ lawyers were not given immediate access to the case record. “In a state under the rule of law, nobody is arrested without proper access to the decision that leads them to jail, for the obvious reason that one cannot defend oneself from an accusation it ignores.”

The ruling was met with criticism by members of the opposition, who saw a connection between the habeas corpus and the fact that Judge Bello is a leading candidate for a presidential nomination to the Superior Court of Justice — Brazil’s second-highest judicial body.

Brazil has fallen four positions in a ranking measuring states’ ability to fight corruption, elaborated by the Americas Society/Council of Americas (AS/COA) in partnership with consultancy firm Control Risks. 

The measurement of Latin American countries says Brazil has dropped from sixth to tenth position this year.