Brazil prosecutors charge The Intercept's Greenwald with hacking

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian prosecutors charged U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday with assisting a group of hackers who intercepted the cellular phone calls of Justice Minister Sergio Moro when he was the judge handling Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption case.

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The Intercept Brasil website edited by Greenwald published damaging conversations between Moro and prosecutors in the Car Wash investigation that showed the judge advising them in the case against now jailed former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“We will not be intimidated by these tyrannical attempts to silence journalists,” Greenwald said in a statement in which he said the government of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro does not respect basic press freedoms.

Greenwald was charged with criminal association with a group of six people who face charges of hacking the telephones of Brazilian officials as well as bank fraud and money laundering.

Greenwald has said the Car Wash investigators’ conversations were leaked to The Intercept after they had been hacked.

But the federal prosecutors said in a statement that an audio found on the seized laptop of one of the alleged hackers showed Greenwald advising him to erase all messages linked to The Intercept while the interceptions where still taking place.

“The dialogues demonstrated that Glenn Greenwald went beyond (his journalistic duty) by indicating actions that would hinder the investigation and reduce the possibility of criminal liability,” the statement said.

Greenwald, a resident of Brazil, became known internationally for his role in the publication of classified U.S. national security documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

It was not clear whether Greenwald could be indicted since he was not under investigation and prosecutors were barred from doing so by a court injunction last year.

Greenwald said Moro had from the start called The Intercept “allies of the hackers” for revealing his collusion with prosecutors in the corruption investigation.

The Federal Police stated less than two months ago, after examining the same evidence cited by the prosecutors, that he had not committed any crime, Greenwald said.

“I did nothing more than do my job as a journalist - ethically and within the law,” he said in the emailed statement.

Rosental Alves, journalism professor at Texas University, tweeted that prosecutors exposed by Greenwald seemed to be seeking revenge when in fact he was trying to protect his sources.

Snowden on Twitter called it “naked retaliation” and a threat to investigative journalism in Brazil.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Ricardo Brito; Editing by Andrea Ricci