Luiz Fernando Pezao arrested over allegations he took part in a corruption and money-laundering group.
Thousands of Brazilians joined demonstrations across the country on Sunday to urge the government to keep pursuing a mammoth corruption investigation and show support for the justice minister, who has been hit with allegations he abused his powers as a judge overseeing the inquiry.
The protesters also urged President Jair Bolsonaro to reject recently passed legislation that would impose prison time for officials who obtain evidence by unlawful means.
Marchers carried posters backing Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who is widely popular with many Brazilians for leading the “Car Wash” corruption investigation that has upended the country’s political elite and sent dozens of people to prison.
“We want to stop the process that exists against Car Wash,” said Sergio Bruno, one of the organisers of a demonstration at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach.
Moro also is vilified by many on the left for putting former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in jail on a corruption conviction that arose from the probe.
That kept Da Silva from running in last year’s presidential election, which was won by the far-right Bolsonaro.
Reports by the website The Intercept since June have used leaked transcripts of hacked mobile phone conversations to raise questions about whether Moro as a judge improperly worked with prosecutors in the case against Da Silva. Moro has denied wrongdoing.
Moro’s conviction of Lula was the highest-profile verdict in the ongoing Car Wash investigation, which has led to the imprisonment of scores of powerful politicians and businessman in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, reshaping the region’s political landscape.
Some excerpted conversations published by The Intercept showed prosecutors discussing how to block journalists from interviewing Lula in jail during last year’s campaign.
Earlier this month, Brazil’s Congress approved “abuse of authority” legislation that sets punishments for judges and prosecutors who obtain evidence unlawfully, disclose confidential information from an inquiry or initiate an investigation of someone without evidence they may have committed a crime.
The measure has been sent to Bolsonaro, who must approve it for it to become law.
Attorney General Raquel Dodge has recommended that the president reject at least some of the legislation, saying it “could intimidate judges and prosecutors in the performance” of their duties.