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Bolsonaro threatens to imprison critical journalist

The journalist Glenn Greenwald, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, said Friday that the rules were modified so that he could be arrested "for reporting"

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro talks on his cell phone during a ceremony at Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro talks on his cell phone during a ceremony at Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

AP | Marcelo Silva de Sousa

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The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, attacked and publicly threatened Saturday to imprison American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who in recent weeks has published reports that compromise Justice Minister Sergio Moro, considered a key piece of the government.

Leer en español: Bolsonaro amenaza con encarcelar a periodista crítico

"Maybe he will be imprisoned here in Brazil," Bolsonaro challenged after a military ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, referring to Greenwald, local media reported.

Bolsonaro's comment comes just a day after the government issued new regulations that expedite the deportation of foreigners considered “dangerous” or who have violated the Constitution.

The rules published on Friday by Minister Moro define a person as dangerous if he presents any link to terrorism, organized crime or armed groups. It also allows authorities to use intelligence agency information to determine if a foreigner is dangerous.

Greenwald responded defiantly to Bolsonaro on his Twitter account.

“Contrary to what the president says, he is not (yet) a dictator. He doesn't have the power to order people to stop. To detain someone, you need to present evidence to a court showing that a crime was committed. That evidence does not exist,” he tweeted.

Greenwald, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, said Friday that the rules were modified so he could be arrested "for reporting."

The American journalist is editor of The Intercept Brasil website, which has published several reports based on leaked telephone conversations after a hack on Moro's cell phones and a group of prosecutors. The revelations commit the former judge for possible judicial overreach when he served as an anti-corruption magistrate in charge of the Lava Jato case.

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After launching the threat that he could go to jail, Bolsonaro suggested that Greenwald married his husband David Miranda, a left-wing federal deputy, and together they adopted children in Brazil as a tactic to avoid deportation.

“He would not apply to the new rules because he is married to another man and they have adopted children in Brazil. Scoundrel, scoundrel ... to avoid a problem he marries another scoundrel and adopts a child in Brazil. You can remain calm (Greenwald), you will not leave,” said the president.

In a polarized and hostile political environment, Greenwald and his husband have been targeted by attacks, death threats and homophobic comments when journalistic publications began.

According to the messages published by The Intercept, Moro would have improperly advised the prosecutors of Lava Jato in a corruption process against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The conviction of Moro in that trial and his subsequent ratification in subsequent instances led the former president to jail and prevented him from being a candidate for president in 2018, election in which Bolsonaro was elected.

Bolsonaro has often criticized the press, accusing the mainstream media of generating lies to damage his image.

In addition, he has occasionally abandoned press conferences, upset with the questions. This Friday, when a journalist asked him why his relatives had used an air force helicopter for a particular transfer, Bolsonaro said the question was "idiot" and ended the press conference.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI) condemned the president's statements and called for an end to the "persecution."

“By threatening a journalist who publishes information that he dislikes, the president promotes and instigates serious attacks on freedom of expression. Without free journalism, the other freedoms will also die,” said ABRAJI.

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