Brazilian judge orders release of ex-president Michel Temer

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A Brazilian judge on Monday ordered the immediate release of ex-president Michel Temer, days after the former leader was detained on allegations of being the leader of a “criminal organization.”

Temer, who was arrested on Thursday in Sao Paulo and transferred to Rio de Janeiro, is the second ex-president of the Latin American country to be caught up in a sprawling, years-long anti-corruption probe called Car Wash that has claimed scores of political and corporate scalps.

The preventative detention of the 78-year-old predecessor of the current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro had no legal justification, judge Antonio Ivan Athie said in the ruling.

Athie extended the release order to former mines and energy minister Moreira Franco, who was also arrested along with several other people.

“I am not against the so-called Car Wash (investigation),” Athie said in his decision.

“I want to see our country free from the corruption that plagues it. However, without constitutional guarantees, guaranteed to all ... there is no legitimacy in the fight against this plague.”

The federal prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that the investigation into Temer had uncovered “the existence of a criminal organization in full operation, involved in concrete acts of clear gravity.”

Temer faced several corruption accusations on leaving office last year.

Brazil’s Congress voted to dismiss two allegations in 2017, cementing his reputation as the ultimate survivor in one of the world’s messiest and scandal-ridden democracies.

A third accusation was filed days before Bolsonaro’s mandate started on January 1, leaving Congress no time to evaluate the charge.

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