Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil's President Temer nominates close ally to Supreme Court

Alexandre de Moraes and President Michel Temer in Brasilia, 3 February 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Moraes (right) was appointed by Mr Temer (left) to the cabinet in May 2016

Brazil's President Michel Temer has nominated his justice minister to the Supreme Court as it prepares to rule on one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country's history.

The minister, Alexandre de Moraes, is one of Mr Temer's closest allies.

He replaces Judge Teori Zavascki, who died in a plane crash last month.

There have been calls for a less politically sensitive nomination, as many senior politicians are facing charges in the corruption scandal.

Mr Temer said he had chosen Mr Moraes for his "solid academic credentials".

The 49-year-old lawyer is a member of the PSDB party, which is part of Mr Temer's governing coalition.

He joined the cabinet in May, when Mr Temer replaced President Dilma Rousseff, who was facing impeachment proceedings.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Moraes had to answer tough questions after riots in gang-controlled prisons last month

Earlier this year, Mr Moraes had to deal with his most serious crisis since taking office, when more than 100 prisoners were killed by fellow inmates in a series of prison riots.

He announced a plan to set up police intelligence units and increase cooperation with neighbouring countries to reduce the power of the gangs that control most Brazilian prisons.

'Foul play'

Mr Moraes's nomination needs to be ratified by the Senate.

He asked for a 30-day leave of absence to prepare for the ratification process.

But analysts say the government does not expect the nomination to be rejected, as it has a broad majority in the Senate.

Later this month the Supreme Court is due to begin ruling on the extensive evidence gathered during an investigation into corruption at the state oil company, Petrobras.

Judge Zavascki had been overseeing the investigation, known as Operation Car Wash.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Judge Zavascki's death has been seen as a blow to the Petrobras corruption probe

He had prepared a list with the names of dozens politicians who allegedly took bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to make sure the company won lucrative contracts with Petrobras.

Odebrecht has admitted paying $1bn (£800m) in bribes to obtain contracts in 12 different countries.

Mr Zavascki was a well-respected judge and the Car Wash investigation gained much credibility when he was appointed to oversee it in the Supreme Court, says the BBC's Daniel Gallas.

The plane he was travelling on plunged into the sea in heavy rain near the town of Paraty on 19 January.

The opposition said it suspected foul play and called for a thorough investigation.

Since Judge Zavascki's death, the Supreme Court has been operating with 10 judges.

His role overseeing the corruption probe was allocated last week to Judge Edson Fachin.

He was chosen at random from a shortlist of five Supreme Court judges.

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