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Top Brazilian Judge Cites Potentially 'Grave Crime' by Country's President

11 Jun 2017 7:17 pm
By Samantha Pearson 

SÃO PAULO -- The chief justice of Brazil's Supreme Court said an "extremely grave crime" would have occurred if a magazine's report is accurate that President Michel Temer ordered the nation's intelligence service to spy on the judge overseeing the sprawling Car Wash corruption probe.

Brazilian news magazine Veja reported late Friday that Mr. Temer allegedly told ABIN, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, to find out details about the life of Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin with the aim of looking for information that could compromise the judge.

Mr. Temer, who is under investigation by the Supreme Court for his alleged role in the Car Wash scheme, vehemently denied the report and any wrongdoing, saying in a statement Friday that the government has never tried to oppose the Car Wash probe. The Wall Street Journal couldn't independently verify Veja's report.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia Rocha responded in a statement Saturday, saying that, if proved correct, the allegations would constitute a serious crime. She said the practice of spying on judges was "typical of dictatorships...and absolutely unacceptable in a democratic republic."

The allegations came only hours after Mr. Temer was acquitted Friday on separate illegal campaign-finance charges in a trial that could have ousted him, and they sparked further calls from opposition politicians Sunday for him to step down.

"Out with Temer!" wrote Senator Randolfe Rodrigues Sunday on Twitter from the opposition Rede party. "If people don't go to the streets to protest, he will continue as president...the people have to protest!" said Mr. Rodrigues in a video posted earlier on social media.

Even as Mr. Temer's approval ratings have fallen to single digits in recent months, street protests against him have remained small as crisis-weary Brazilians fear causing further turmoil, especially as the country begins to emerge from recession.

Mr. Temer has been battling to cling to power since executives from meatpacker JBS last month accused the president of taking bribes as part of the Car Wash matter, an alleged multi-billion-dollar bribery and kickback racket involving some of Brazil's largest companies. He has denied the accusations.

Opposition politicians had hoped Brazil's top electoral court would vote to oust him this week over the separate case involving campaign funds for the 2014 elections. However, the court on Friday absolved him, citing the importance of maintaining stability in the country.

Mr. Temer still faces the Supreme Court investigation and several impeachment requests by lawmakers, but both require the support of Congress to proceed. While unpopular among voters, Mr. Temer is considered a deft back-room negotiator.

If street protests remain small, observers say his allies would have little reason to turn against him, lending him the support he needs to stay in power until presidential elections in 2018.

Write to Samantha Pearson at samantha.pearson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 11, 2017 15:17 ET (19:17 GMT)

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