Anti-Bolsonaro Activist Rodrigo Pilha Tortured In Jail

By Nathalia Urban

Political prisoner since March 18 for protesting with a banner reading “Bolsonaro Genocida”, the Workers’ Party (PT) activist, Rodrigo Grassi Cademartori, known as Rodrigo Pilha, has been subjected to the most horrifying abuse for having the courage to publicly oppose to the atrocities committed by Bolsonaro.

The Bolsonaro regime has done everything it can to keep Pilha imprisoned. On April 4, Judge Valter André de Lima Bueno Araújo, of the Federal District Court of Criminal Executions (VEP-DF), rejected the request for house arrest brought by the defense of the activist, and the Judge defended by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, allowing Pilha only to leave the prison to work during the day.


The latest development in this disturbing case was a complaint that he was physically tortured at the Provisional Detention Center (CDP) II in Brasília, where he was held for 14 days, until he was transferred to the Penitentiary Progression Center (CPP), also at the Penitentiary Complex of Papuda. According a chilling report made by Revista Forum’s editor Renato Rovai, the assaults started right after the arrival of Pilha at CDP II, the area better known as “Covidão”, for separating inmates who had just arrived in the prison system to quarantine for 14 days. As soon as he entered the prison courtyard, he was already expected by agents who enquired “who the Petista was”.

A report describes that “while Pilha was practically passed out after a beating, the agent who assaulted him, and of which his family and lawyers have the identification, asked if he, at 43 years old, was not ashamed of being ‘a PT tramp’.  The agent also said that “Bolsonaro had come so that people like him would be shamed”.

The torture session continued into the evening, when the activist was already in the cell.  According to Rovai, the same agents went to make a blitz on the spot and left all the detainees naked, while attacking them with kicks.  “With Pilha, they were more cruel.  They spread a bag of washing powder over his head, splashed water, and then smothered him with a bucket.  Everyone was warned that they were being assaulted because of Pilha, in a menacing tone, saying whoever was from PT was not welcome in the jail.

Still detained at CPD II, the activist complained of injury to his right upper limb and right thigh and was seen on March 23.  A medical report found ecchymosis on the clinical examination, a diagnosis similar to bruises and which indicates the presence of spots on the skin usually caused by trauma.

During the days he was held in provisional detention, the activist counted on the solidarity of his cellmates, who shared clothing and food with him. Currently, he is serving a sentence in the CPP in a semi-open regime, working in the morning.  His defence is still trying to reduce his punishment, but have been encountering a series of obstacles.

Political persecutions

Bolsonaro has shamelessly pursued his political opponents.  The government has forced the application of the National Security Law (LSN), which has again been the subject of debate in Brazil.  Passed during the Military Dictatorship in 1983, the legislation carries an authoritarian heritage and has been used by the government of Jair Bolsonaro as an instrument to persecute and criminalize opponents.

In 2020 it was revealed that the Ministry of Justice made a secret report on more than 500 civil servants in the security area identified as members of the anti-fascism movement and opponents of the Jair Bolsonaro government.

On his social media, former president Lula wrote demanding an investigation into the allegation of torture committed against Rodrigo Pilha: 

“It is urgent to investigate allegations of violence against Rodrigo Pilha and punish the responsible agents. We demand an investigation as determined by the CNJ (National Council of Justice). For the end of the arbitrary punishment”