Brazil's Supreme Court issues ruling that could free Lula

Elias Hubbard
November 9, 2019

Brazil's Supreme Court has made a decision to end the mandatory imprisonment of convicted criminals after they lose their first appeal, which may lead to the release of dozens of high-profile convicts, including former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's Supreme Court decided on Thursday to end the mandatory imprisonment of convicted criminals after they lose their first appeal, restoring the previous rule that they should be allowed to exhaust all their appeal options before being locked up.

The judgement looks set to benefit Lula, as the former president is known, and others top politicians and business leaders who were caught up in the extensive "Car Wash" corruption investigation and who are still appealing.

Following the rule change, Lula's lawyers reported they plan to meet him Friday, and then submit a request for immediate release.

These include Lula, as he still has appeals out against his conviction.

By a 6-5 vote, the court overturned a three-year-old rule that contributed to the success of Brazil's biggest corruption investigation, the so-called Car Wash operation that put dozens of company executives and politicians in jail for bribes and kickbacks. In addition, the court ruling also reportedly means that some 5,000 convicts could also be released from prison. In a statement, the Car Wash task force said the ruling was "inconsistent" with the fight against corruption.

The leader of Bolsonaro's party in the Senate, Major Olimpio, said the decision was cause of "shame" and that the top court's justices "voted in favor of criminals and against the Brazilian people". But fellow judge Marco Aurelio Mello warned of the risk for judicial errors.

Lula governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, its first working class president. He has been held at the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba. Lula, 74, was sentenced to nearly 13 years in jail in February in a separate corruption case and still faces another half dozen corruption trials.

Lula has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who ultimately won, said during his campaign that he hoped Lula would "rot in prison". That could change, however, if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, had been biased.

Lula's conviction and imprisonment prevented the popular leftist Workers' Party candidate from contesting the October 2018 presidential election. But the chats published by The Intercept website eroded the probe's credibility.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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