Greenwald lawyers ask Brazil to drop 'scandalous' criminal charges

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Lawyers for U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald urged a Brazilian court on Thursday to dismiss criminal charges against him for allegedly aiding hackers who accessed the private phone messages of Sergio Moro, Brazil’s current justice minister.

FILE PHOTO: Author and journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks to the audience at Brazilian Press Association in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 30, 2019. Picture taken on July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau/File Photo

In a federal court filing in the capital Brasilia, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the lawyers argue that prosecutors’ decision to charge the journalist was an act of “scandalous disrespect.”

They point to an injunction by Brazil’s Supreme Court that barred prosecutors from investigating Greenwald for having received or obtained “information published in the media, due to the constitutional right to the protection of journalistic sources.”

Greenwald, a resident of Brazil and fierce critic of far right President Jair Bolsonaro, is best known for his work on the disclosures of Edward Snowden, the American former National Security Agency contractor who leaked secret documents about U.S. telephone and internet surveillance in 2013.

Greenwald was charged on Tuesday with criminal association with a group of six people, all of whom face charges of hacking the phones of Brazilian officials, as well as bank fraud and money laundering.

Last year, Greenwald and the Intercept Brasil website, which he helped found, published stories based on leaked chat messages involving prosecutors and Moro, then a judge working on high profile corruption cases and now minister of justice in Bolsonaro’s cabinet.

In support of their case, federal prosecutors said in a statement that an audio feed found on the seized laptop of one of the alleged hackers showed Greenwald advising him to erase all messages linked to the Intercept, at a time when the hacking was still taking place.

The leaked conversations between Moro and prosecutors showed the judge advising them on the corruption case against former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, raising questions about Moro’s independence.

Moro has dismissed the messages as coming from illegal hacking and has questioned their authenticity, saying they may have been doctored.

Greenwald, part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for stories involving Snowden, lives in Rio. He is married to David Miranda, a left-leaning politician who was elected to Congress last year.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Tom Brown