SAO PAULO ( Associated Press) – A Brazilian federal judge on Thursday released President Jair Bolsonaro’s former education minister, a day after he was arrested by police in a corruption investigation.
According to Magistrate Ney Bello, Milton Ribeiro and the four other suspects should have been released because they are not part of the current government and the charges against them do not justify their pre-trial custody.
Brazilian media showed Ribeiro leaving a prison in the city of So Paulo hours after Belo’s verdict.
His arrest was another blow to Bolsonaro’s bid for re-election in October. Polls show that the far-right president will be behind former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ruled between 2003 and 2010.
Ribeiro resigned in March after the Brazilian press reported leaks of talks with mayors who would reportedly benefit from the federal executive in distributing his department’s budget. He was appointed in July 2020.
According to reports, the conversation revealed that Ribeiro used two evangelical clergy as informal mediators to contact mayors to help with the Bolsonaro campaign. The former minister is also an evangelical pastor.
The two shepherds supported the municipalities ruled by the allies and demanded bribes, including one kilo of gold.
Ribeiro is accused of influence peddling, corruption, prejudice and improper use of public office.
Bolsonaro, who had said months earlier that he would “put his face on fire” for Ribeiro, changed his mind when the former minister went to prison. In a live broadcast on his social media channels, the president said he continues to rely on Ribeiro, “but if the police find something wrong, they have to pay.”