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Brazil police target key Bolsonaro supporters in fake news raids | World news

2 min read

Brazilian police have raided addresses linked to some of Jair Bolsonaro’s most ardent online cheerleaders as part of an investigation into a fake news network investigators reportedly suspect could be linked to the president’s son.

The operation’s targets were an eclectic and influential cast of hardcore Bolsonaristas including a former Femen activist-turned-anti-abortion-militant; a comic and musician whose repertoire includes a sexually explicit JK Rowling parody called “Harry Fucker”; a gun-toting, communist-bashing congressman; a hard-right blogger; and a multimillionaire retail magnate famed for placing giant replicas of the Statue of Liberty outside his stores.

There was rejoicing among the president’s opponents and outrage among followers as federal police investigators executed 29 search warrants around Brazil as part of an inquiry into the alleged group and its financial backers.

Mobile phones and computers were reportedly seized in homes and offices in Brazil’s capital, Brasília, and five states.

Bolsonaro’s social media savvy son, Carlos Bolsonaro, attacked what he called an “unconstitutional, political and ideological” investigation. Last month one of Brazil’s top papers, the Folha de São Paulo, claimed police had identified the 37-year-old as one of the alleged key members of a “criminal fake news racket” engaged in threatening and defaming Brazilian authorities.

Filipe Martins, a top presidential adviser, tweeted: “Journalists, comedians and ordinary citizens who acted spontaneously are being treated like criminals for daring to express views that displeased the establishment.”

Another pro-Bolsonaro activist, Davy Albuquerque da Fonseca, complained: “This is open persecution of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro. The nation is living through the darkest and most authoritarian period in its entire history.”

The pro-Bolsonaro website, Terça Livre, accused the federal police of “intimidation” and said phones and laptops had been seized from the vehicle of its founder, the blogger Allan dos Santos, after they raided its headquarters at 6.43am on Wednesday.

Opposition politicians hailed the raids as a major blow to the alleged Bolsonarian fake news machine.

Marcelo Freixo, from the Socialism and Liberty party, tweeted: “The Bolsonaro family … has built a fake news network that operates from within the presidential palace and the offices of congressional allies. This is public money being used to commit crimes.”

Douglas Garcia, a Bolsonarian congressman who was among the targets, painted the operation as a leftwing assault.

“You want to silence the voices of conservatives on social networks … You want to criminalize other people’s freedom of opinion – the freedom the internet gives people … But you will not succeed,” said Garcia, whose office in São Paulo’s parliament was raided.

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