Brazil releases hundreds after capital riots

Brazilian authorities on Tuesday released hundreds of people detained in the storming of government buildings by a far-right mob, with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowing to "recover the country" after what he called acts of terrorism.

Police had arrested more than 1,500 people after supporters of far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the seats of power in Brasilia on Sunday.

They have refused to accept Bolsonaro's election defeat to Lula in October.

But the federal police said in a statement on Tuesday that "599 people were released, mostly old people, people with health problems, the homeless and mothers with children" on humanitarian grounds.

Most of the arrests took place on Monday as police cleared protest camps set up in the capital.

Lula had condemned "terrorist acts and criminal, coup-mongering vandalism" when he returned to work at the pillaged presidential palace on Monday.

But on Tuesday he said "Brazilian democracy remains firm," in a post on Twitter.

"Let's recover the country from hatred and disunity," added the 77-year-old former trade unionist, who took office on January 1 for his third term as president after defeating Bolsonaro in the deeply divisive election.

The rioters, who unleashed chaos on the capital on Sunday, had been trying to force out Lula.

Police said 527 people remain detained while others were being processed.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said around 50 arrest warrants had been issued for people not caught in the act of pillaging and for others not present but accused of organizing the attack.

Those that were released were taken on buses to a bus station from where they would be able to return to their home regions.

From one of the buses, passengers shouted: "Victory is ours!" Some people put their arms outside the vehicles with clenched fists -- a symbol of resistence -- or making the "V" victory sign.

Other detainees were taken to police stations to then be transferred to the Papuda prison complex, an AFP reporter said.

- 'Humiliation' -

"Now we're going to rest and prepare ourselves for another battle because if they think they will intimidate us, they are very wrong," Agostinho Ribeiro, a freed Bolsonaro supporter, told AFP.

He said the detainees' treatment at a police gymnasium where they were held had been humiliating and compared it to a Nazi concentration camp, while blaming the rioting on left-wing "infiltrators."

However, a woman who asked to remain anonymous insisted that the prisoners were "treated well. No one died there."

Police also denied reports that an old person had died in custody.

Hundreds of soldiers and police mobilized to dismantle an improvised camp outside the army's headquarters in Brasilia on Monday.

There, some 3,000 Bolsonaro supporters had set up tents -- used as a base for the sea of protesters who ran riot inside the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court for around four hours on Sunday.

Bolsonaro has alleged his electoral defeat was due to a conspiracy against him by Brazil's courts and electoral authorities.

Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, met with the leaders of both houses of Congress and the chief justice of the Supreme Court on Monday.

They condemned what many have called the South American country's version of the US Capitol riots in Washington two years ago.

"We have to be firm in combating terrorism. We have to be firm in combating anti-democratic people who want to stage a coup," said Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes.

Bolsonaro, who snubbed Lula's inauguration after traveling to the United States on the second-to-last day of his term, was receiving hospital treatment in Florida with abdominal pains stemming from a near-fatal knife attack when he was campaigning for the presidency in 2018.

The ex-president, dubbed the "Tropical Trump," condemned the "pillaging" in Brasilia, but rejected Lula's claim he incited the attacks, and defended the right to "peaceful protests."

Rioters caused considerable damage to the buildings, such as trashing artwork and offices, shattering windows and doors.

Some social media influencers created an Instagram account to denounce rioters that already had attracted more than a million followers by the end of the day.

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