Brazil sentences three to over 14 years for storming government buildings

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil's Supreme Court voted on Thursday to convict the first three people to stand trial for the storming of government buildings in the capital Brasilia on Jan. 8, sentencing them to at least 14 years in prison.

A majority of judges voted to convict Aecio Lucio Costa Pereira, a former employee of water utility Sabesp, who was arrested in the Senate building during the invasion, for crimes that include an attempted coup d'etat, armed criminal association and damage to historic buildings.

Later on Thursday, the Justices also convicted Matheus Lazaro, from southern Parana state. Both their convictions carried sentences of over 15 years in prison and one year and six months of open regime, or supervised house arrest.

A third defendant, Thiago Mathar, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, including 12 years and six months in prison and six months in open regime.

The three were also ordered to pay a fine of 30 million reais ($6 million) for vandalism, but the amount will be shared with other defendants who are yet to be tried.

In January, supporters of far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro invaded and vandalized Brazil's Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court a week after leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office, protesting his victory in the October election and calling for a military coup.

Pereira's lawyer, Sebastiao Coelho da Silva, denied there had been an attempted coup d'etat and questioned the severity of the damage. He criticized what he called "political judgment."

Justice Gilmar Mendes said the facts should not be taken in isolation and all those involved must be investigated.

"We are here telling the story of the survival of democracy," Mendes said.

($1 = 4.8702 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Steven Grattan and Christopher Cushing)