UPDATE 2-Brazil top court votes to indict lower house speaker on graft charges

miércoles 2 de marzo de 2016 20:54 GYT

(Adds calls for Cunha to step down)

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA, March 2 (Reuters) - A majority of Brazil's Supreme Court voted to accept corruption charges against lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha on Wednesday, putting him on trial for allegedly accepting bribes on contracts for two drill ships leased by state oil company Petrobras.

The ruling, which must be officially confirmed at the end of the court's session, is a setback to Cunha as he struggles to fend off a request from Brazil's top prosecutor for his removal as speaker for obstructing investigation into the Petrobras graft scandal.

A bitter political rival of President Dilma Rousseff, Cunha could also lose his seat if an ethics committee inquiry underway finds he lied about undeclared Swiss bank accounts.

Cunha, who comes from the PMDB party that is Rousseff's main coalition ally, broke with her last year and in December took up an opposition request for the impeachment of the president.

But the case against him at the Supreme Court, the only court that can try elected officials in Brazil, could hasten Cunha's downfall and undermine efforts to impeach Rousseff.

Even the main opposition party to the Rousseff government, the PSDB, called on Cunha to step down after the court vote.

"Now we have a speaker who is under investigation by the House ethics committee and, what's worse, indicted by the Supreme Court. It's the limit. He has to go," said PSDB leader in the lower chamber, Antonio Imbassahy.   Continuación...