Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva can be jailed on corruption charges, the country’s supreme court has ruled, dismissing an application to allow him to remain free pending an appeal against those charges.
The country’s top court has voted 6-5 to deny Lula’s plea and ruled he must start serving a 12-year prison sentence for graft. According to the ruling, Lula may now be detained at any time and will likely not be allowed to run for the country’s top seat in October.
The popular 72-year-old politician, who is leading in all opinion polls ahead of the October presidential elections, was convicted of money laundering and passive corruption last July. The Supreme Federal Court’s (STF) decision may put an end to da Silva’s expected return to politics.
Commonly known as Lula, the Brazilian Workers’ Party icon recently spoke on an RT Spanish show hosted by Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, where he argued that corruption charges have become an “instrument in the moral and ethical fight against opponents.”
Claiming to be the victim of political persecution, Lula told his supporters in Rio de Janeiro on Monday that his struggle is a continuation of the fight against the former dictatorship of 1964-1985. The possibility of his return to power has driven his supporters as well as his opponents onto the streets ahead of the supreme court’s decision.
Crowds flooded the streets of several Brazilian cities calling for the politician’s imprisonment for corruption and money laundering. People chanted ‘Lula in jail’, while others staged a performance with a person dressed as Lula sitting behind bars. Others rushed to defend the 72-year-old politician, calling his possible incarceration an attack on democracy.
The split in society follows a downturn in the Brazilian economy, which has shrunk since Lula left power in 2011. Brazilians are also trying to recover from the impeachment of da Silva’s protégé, former president Dilma Rousseff, who was herself ousted from office in 2016 for manipulating the federal budget to hide the nation’s growing economic crisis. Rousseff’s departure ended 13 years of the leftist Workers’ Party hold on government, which was characterized by initial soaring of Brazil’s economy and the transition of millions of Brazilians into the middle class.
Lula was initially sentenced to nine years in jail, and an appeals court in January upheld the ruling, increasing the sentence to 12 years. While Lula’s defense has no power to reverse the conviction and obtain an acquittal of the former president (who held the office from 2003 until 2011), it still has the option of appealing to the Regional Federal Court of the 4th Region (TRF-4), which had passed the 12-year sentence.
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