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Bolsonaro denies coup plot as thousands rally in support of former Brazilian leader

By Michael Rios, CNN

(CNN) — Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday led a large rally of his supporters in São Paulo as he denied allegations that he took part in a coup plot in an attempt to stay in power.

Thousands of Bolsonaro’s followers wearing the green and gold of Brazil’s national flag thronged Paulista Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the country’s largest city, in a show of support for the former leader as he faces mounting legal challenges.

The far-right populist had called for the protest rally last week on social media platform X, calling it in “defense of the democratic rule of the law.”

Bolsonaro faces a Brazilian Federal Police investigation into an alleged attempted coup plot to keep him in power after he lost the 2022 presidential election, his lawyer confirmed in early February.

Several former ministers who served in Bolsonaro’s government are also being investigated and some of his aides have been arrested, according to CNN affiliate CNN Brasil.

Bolsonaro on Sunday insisted he is being persecuted, without directly mentioning the institutions handling the investigation, CNN Brasil reported.

Last year, Bolsonaro was barred from running for political office until 2030 by the country’s highest electoral court for abusing his power and misusing public media during the 2022 election campaign.

After Bolsonaro lost the election by a narrow margin to leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, his supporters rioted and broke into government buildings in Brasilia on January 8, 2023. Bolsonaro has denied inciting the violent attacks in the capital.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro said Parliament should offer “amnesty for those poor people who are imprisoned in Brasília,” in reference to the January 8 rioters, according to CNN Brasil.

Bolsonaro was also seen waving an Israel flag during the rally Sunday in opposition to Lula da Silva, who has compared Israel’s offensive on Gaza to the Holocaust.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai, Tara John and Stefano Pozzebon contributed to this report.

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