Brazil’s lower house of Congress has voted in favour of expelling a lawmaker who has been accused of ordering the murder of her husband.
Evangelical gospel singer and pastor turned politician Flordelis de Souza has always maintained she is innocent.
The 60-year-old’s husband, Anderson do Carmo, was shot 30 times at their home in Rio de Janeiro in June 2019.
Prosecutors allege he was killed by Ms Souza’s son on her orders with a gun purchased by one of her adopted sons.
The couple were famous for raising 55 children, most of whom they had adopted.
In an overwhelming vote, 437 members of the lower house of Congress voted in favour of stripping Flordelis de Souza of her seat for “conduct incompatible with parliamentary decorum”. Only seven lawmakers voted against the motion and 12 abstained. The vote came almost a year after charges were brought against Ms Souza.
She has been wearing an electronic ankle bracelet since she was charged. But she remained free as under Brazil’s constitution, members of Congress enjoy parliamentary immunity which also extends to alleged crimes committed outside of their official duties.
The vote to strip her of her mandate has therefore opened the door for her potential arrest.
Ms Souza, who is widely referred to under her first name, Flordelis, is a popular gospel singer and leader of an evangelical church named after herself, the Community of the Evangelical Ministry Flordelis.
Born and raised in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, she adopted dozens of street children over the years.
In 1998, she married one of her adopted sons, Anderson do Carmo, who at the time was 21 and who later became a pastor in her church.
Ms Souza was elected to represent Rio in Congress in 2018 and took up office in February 2019.
In June 2019, 42-year-old Anderson do Carmo was shot 30 times at the couple’s home in Rio.
Ms Souza said he had been killed by robbers but investigators allege he was shot dead by Ms Souza’s biological son with a gun bought by one of the couple’s adopted sons.
As well as those two sons, five more of Ms Souza’s children and one of her grandchildren have been arrested in connection with the crime.
She herself has been charged with “orchestrating the homicide, enlisting [several of her grown children] to take part in the crime and attempting to disguise it as an armed robbery”.
According to investigators, Ms Sousa had started to plot the murder of her husband as early as May 2018 when she allegedly tried to poison him.
Her alleged motive was an attempt to wrest control of the family’s and her business’s finances from her husband, who reportedly was in charge of all the revenue from her churches.