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Brazilian judge frees former minister Bolsonaro from prison
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SAO PAULO — A Brazilian federal judge on Thursday freed a former education minister under President Jair Bolsonaro a day after he was arrested by federal police in connection with a corruption investigation.

Judge Ney Bello said Milton Ribeiro and four other suspects should be freed because they are not part of the current administration and the charges do not warrant his detention pending trial.

Brazilian media showed Ribeiro walking out of a Sao Paulo city jail hours after Bello’s decision.

His arrest was another blow to Bolsonaro’s re-election bid in October, with opinion polls showing the far-right president trailing left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ruled from 2003 to 2010.

Ribeiro resigned as education minister in March after Brazilian media reported leaked conversations he had with mayors who were allegedly favored by the federal government in the distribution of the agency’s budget. He was appointed to this position in July 2020.

Leaked conversations showed Ribeiro had two evangelical pastors as unofficial go-betweens approaching mayors who could help Bolsonaro’s campaign. The former minister is himself an evangelical pastor.

Both favored municipalities ruled by their allies and demanded bribes, including a kilo of gold, according to reports.

Ribeiro is charged with influence peddling, corruption, prevarication and administrative advocacy – the latter meaning he allegedly used his ministerial work to promote private interests.

Bolsonaro, who said months ago he would “put his face on fire” for Ribeiro, changed his tune after his former minister was jailed. Speaking on a live broadcast on his social media, the president said he still trusted Ribeiro, “but if the police find something wrong, he will pay.”

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