A Brazilian appeals court will decide on Wednesday whether to grant a request for the release of former President Michel Temer, a judge at the court said on Friday. Judge Ivan Athié said that the Regional Federal Court of the 2nd Region (TRF-2) will decide on the petition by Temer's defense.
Athié has also requested that federal judge Marcelo Bretas, who asked for the arrest of the former president, expresses his opinion about the release request. Temer was taken into custody on Thursday, accused of leading a group of politicians that received bribes for years in Brazil.
However Temer remained silent when questioned by investigators on Friday, a day after he was arrested as part of the country's sprawling Car Wash corruption probe. Temer, 78, was arrested on corruption charges on Thursday, with prosecutors saying that construction company Engevix paid him bribes in exchange for a contract to build a nuclear power plant in the city of Angra dos Reis in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro state.
Federal prosecutor Fabiana Schneider told journalists that Temer's attorneys said he would not answer any questions. She said she is absolutely convinced the former president needs to be jailed so investigations can go forward.
The Car Wash task force has been very restrained in its requests for arrest, Schneider said. We are talking about a criminal organization that has robbed the taxpayer for 40 years.
Temer's former Cabinet minister, Wellington Moreira Franco, was also arrested and has denied any wrongdoing.
Both of their arrests come at a time of considerable tension between Car Wash prosecutors and Brazil's top court. A week ago, the nation's Supreme Federal Tribunal ruled that some graft investigations should be handled by electoral judges because they involve politicians who allegedly received kickbacks from companies to finance their campaigns.
In ruling, some justices acknowledged that Brazil's electoral court system lacks the infrastructure and expertise to handle such big corruption cases, but expressed confidence that the gap could be bridged. The country's top court also blocked a move that allowed the Car Wash task force to manage hundreds of millions of dollars recovered from corruption scandals at state-run oil giant Petrobras.
There are now 10 investigations related to Temer, who was once a discreet backroom dealmaker in Congress before he was propelled into Brazil's presidency amid a huge political and economic crisis.