Brazil Supreme Court justice opens probe into suspended President Rousseff, former president Lula

President Dilma Rousseff (left) and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
President Dilma Rousseff (left) and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. PHOTOS: EPA, AFP

SAO PAULO (AFP/REUTERS) - A Brazilian Federal Supreme Court justice has authorised the opening of an investigation into suspended President Dilma Rousseff and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for allegedly obstructing the course of a sweeping corruption probe, GloboNews news channel said on Tuesday (Aug 16).

According to GloboNews, without saying how it obtained the information, Prosecutor-general Rodrigo Janot has requested the country's top court, known as STF, permission to open an investigation on Ms Rousseff and Mr Lula. Ms Rousseff will stand impeachment trial on the Senate on Aug 25 for allegedly doctoring budget accounts.

Media representatives for the STF and the presidential palace did not immediately comment.

Meanwhile, Ms Rousseff admitted on Tuesday that she had made mistakes but said she had done nothing worthy of impeachment in an address just over a week before she goes on trial.

Ms Rousseff, accused of using illegal budgetary maneuvers to cover up the depth of the country's economic problems during her 2014 re-election, faces trial just four days after the Olympic Games end in Rio.

She looks near certain to be expelled from office.

In a letter to the Brazilian people that she read out in the capital Brasilia, Ms Rousseff repeated her suggestion that Brazil hold new elections to get out of the political crisis.

Ms Rousseff said that if she was spared by the Senate, she would back a referendum on holding early elections and electoral reform to carry out a "deep transformation" of a system that most Brazilians consider rotten.

She also struck a humble note.

"I have listened to the tough criticisms of my government, for the errors committed," she said. "I accept these criticisms with humility and determination so that we can build a new way forward."

But Ms Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured under the military dictatorship in the 1970s, repeated her insistence that forcing her out through impeachment amounts to a coup.

"It would be an unequivocal coup, followed by an indirect election," she said.

"We have to strengthen democracy in our country, and for this it will be necessary for the Senate to close the impeachment process underway, recognizing, given the irrefutable evidence, that there was no crime of responsibility.

"I am innocent," Ms Rousseff insisted. "There is no injustice more devastating than to condemn an innocent person."

The final judgment phase in the impeachment process is expected to take several days before a vote.

The Senate must vote by a two-thirds majority at the end of the judgment session in order to remove her from office. If that happens, Interim President Michel Temer would stay on until scheduled elections in 2018.

The Globo news organization reported that the actual judgment vote will take place between Aug 30 and Aug 31.

The president of the Supreme Court, Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, will preside.

Ms Rousseff was elected in 2010, taking over from her political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, founder of the leftist Workers' Party.

She was re-elected in 2014 but her mandate rapidly got bogged down as economic output plummeted, unemployment rose and a huge corruption scandal tainted many of her allies, as well as members of the opposition.

Starting in 2015, her allies began to drift away. In May of this year, she was suspended to face impeachment proceedings.

"Brazil is living one of the most dramatic moments of its history," Ms Rousseff wrote in her letter.