BRASILIA – A Brazilian Supreme Court justice revoked on Friday the suspension of an influential senator who is a key ally of the nation’s embattled president.
Justice Marco Aurelio Mello rescinded the ruling affecting Aecio Neves, who has been charged with accepting around $600,000 in bribes from Joesley Batista, ex-chairman of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS.
Neves, who was the candidate of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) in the 2014 presidential election, will be able to resume his work as a legislator thanks to the decision by Mello, who also denied a request by the Attorney General’s Office that the senator be ordered held in preventive detention.
Another Supreme Court justice, Edson Fachin, who is overseeing investigations in the high court launched on the basis of the plea-bargain confessions of Joesley Batista and his brother Wesley, made the decision to suspend Neves in May.
But Mello overturned the ruling on appeal, finding that Neves would not be obstructing the investigation into his alleged bribe-taking by exercising his parliamentary duties.
The PSDB is a partner in the governing coalition headed by President Michel Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).
Some factions within the PSDB, however, want the party to turn against Temer, who on Monday became the first sitting Brazilian president to face criminal charges.
The Batista brothers, co-owners of JBS parent company J&F Investimentos, have told prosecutors that they paid bribes to Temer and hundreds of other politicians in exchange for political favors.
The lower house of Congress – where the president’s party has a majority – will have the final say over whether the prosecution of Temer can go forward.
It would a take a two-thirds majority of that body, which is to begin debating the matter next week, to put Temer in the dock.
If Congress allows the prosecution, Temer will be suspended for six months and lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia will be named interim president.
In the event Temer were convicted by the Supreme Court, Congress would choose a successor to serve out the balance of the presidential term that ends Jan. 1, 2019.
Temer became president when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and later ousted from office last year for allegedly violating budget laws.