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Facing probe, Bolsonaro spent two nights at Hungarian embassy

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro hug after giving a joint press conference on February 17, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary (Attila KISBENEDEK)
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro hug after giving a joint press conference on February 17, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary (Attila KISBENEDEK)

Jair Bolsonaro was "hosted" for two days last month at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia, lawyers for the Brazilian ex-president said Monday, denying he had been seeking refuge from pressing legal probes.

The far-right ex-leader's defense team released a statement in response to a report by the New York Times, which said Bolsonaro "hid" at the compound in February while under investigation.

According to the US newspaper, which also released video footage it said showed him inside of the embassy, the right-wing leader stayed at the embassy from February 12 to 14, just days after police confiscated his passport and arrested two aides.

Investigators on February 8 outlined their suspicions that Bolsonaro had fomented a "coup attempt" to prevent his 2022 election opponent and current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from taking power, in revelations that sent shockwaves through Brazilian politics.

Security camera images published by the Times show Bolsonaro entering the Hungarian embassy in Brazil the evening of February 12 and leaving the afternoon of the 14th.

Bolsonaro "was hosted for two days at the Hungarian embassy in Brazil to spend time with authorities from this friendly country," his lawyers said.

"It is publicly known that the ex-president has a good relationship with the Hungarian Prime Minister" Viktor Orban, they added.

Days before the mid-February embassy visit, Orban, also a far-right leader, called Bolsonaro an "honest patriot" on social media and urged him to "Keep on fighting, Mr. President!" in a post showing a picture of the two men shaking hands.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, the head of Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal who has handled several criminal and civil cases against Bolsonaro, meanwhile has given the former president "a period of 48 hours" to explain his stay at the Hungarian embassy, court sources told AFP.

- 'Fake news' -

Hungarian Ambassador Milkos Hamlai on Monday evening spent 20 minutes at the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, a government source said, after being summoned in order to "to give explanations on the hosting of the ex-president."

Bolsonaro's political opponents have quickly seized on the report.

The head of Lula's Workers' Party, Fleisi Hoffmann, claimed on X that the embassy visit showed Bolsonaro was trying "to flee... out of fear of being tried for his crimes."

"During the days in which he was housed at the Magyar embassy, via invitation, the Brazilian ex-president spoke with multiple authorities... on the subject of the political context of the two countries," Bolsonaro's lawyers added, using the term for Hungary's majority ethnic group.

"Any other interpretation... is fiction," they said, denouncing "fake news."

Bolsonaro himself pushed back against allegations of any untoward circumstances related to his stay at the embassy.

"I have good international relations and I still maintain relationships today with heads of state," he said Monday night at a Liberal Party event. "They often call me to ask for information about what is happening in our country."

Bolsonaro, 69, is the subject of several ongoing probes and legal proceedings.

He has already been barred from public office for eight years for baselessly trashing Brazil's voting system ahead of the 2022 elections he lost.

Last week, federal police recommended he be charged for falsifying his Covid-19 vaccination records.

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