Brazil Supreme Court Orders Censorship of Article Accusing Chief Justice of Corruption

Brazilian Supreme Court President judge Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, is pictured during a solemn session to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Brazilian Constitution at the Supreme Court plenary, in Brasilia on October 4, 2018. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the censorship Monday of a report published by the magazine Crusoé alleging that current Supreme Court President Dias Toffoli was involved in corrupt dealings with the construction firm Obredecht.

The story, titled “O Amigo do amigo do meu pei” (“The friend of my father’s friend”), claims that when the company’s founder Marcelo Odebredecht wrote an email using the titular phrase, he was secretly referring to Toffoli. Odebrecht, CEO of the eponymous Brazilian construction conglomerate, was initially sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2016 for paying over $30 million in bribes to many of Brazil’s leading politicians in what is also known as “Operation Car Wash.”

The scandal has already led to the downfall of three former presidents: Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office, Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva imprisoned for 12 years, and most recent leader Michel Temer was arrested. The multiple corruption scandals played into the hands of conservative congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who last October was elected president in a stunning upset against the country’s political establishment.

The article contends that Toffoli “created a special task force with more than a hundred employees to appeal, in the courts, the lawsuits that involved the bidding” of Obredecht projects, indicating he may also be involved in the widespread corruption scandal.

“There are solid reasons, as it can be said within judicial jargon [in Brazil], for Dias Toffoli to be referred by Marcelo Odebrecht as ‘friend of the friend of my father’ – a friend of Lula, therefore,” the article reads. “The current President of the Supreme Court was, for many years, an attorney for the Worker’s Party. With Lula’s rise to power, he also rose, together with his comrades. He always had an excellent relationship with the former President, who is currently imprisoned in Curitiba.”

The Supreme Court took issue with the article, describing it as false and without corroborating evidence. On Monday, they ruled that its publisher, the right-leaning magazine Crusoé, must remove the article from their website and pay a $26,000 fine.

The ruling, which came from Supreme Court jurist Alexandre de Moraes, also orders that the article’s authors Rodrigo Rangel and Mateus Coutinho participate in a deposition with federal marshals. Crusoé’s lawyer, André Marsiglia dos Santos, called the decision to fine the magazine “absurd,” arguing that it was deleted from the site immediately.

The Intercepta left-wing online magazine founded by the Brazil-based journalist Glenn Greenwald, chose to republish the article in full to take a stand against censorship and the court’s alleged corruption.

“The decision of Alexandre de Moraes is extremely dangerous,” the website contends. “In his dispatch, the minister said that Crusoe and the site The Antagonist published fake news that went beyond the freedom of expression.”

“What Moraes called ‘typical example of fake news’ – at the request of Toffoli, who asked for “proper investigation of the lies just released” – is a report based on an official document,” it continued. “Neither Moraes nor Toffoli nor anyone else can censor the press or any citizen with such childish arguments.”

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