Published: Fri, April 06, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Ex-Brazil president must go to prison, judges rule

Ex-Brazil president must go to prison, judges rule

Brazil's top court voted narrowly in the early hours Thursday to turn down an attempt by former President Luiz Inacio da Silva to stay out of jail while he appeals a corruption conviction, a decision that will have widespread implications in this polarized nation.

In his order, Federal Judge Sergio Moro said that the 72-year-old must present himself before 17:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Friday at the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba. In January, an appeals court unanimously upheld the conviction and increased the sentence to 12 years.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is ahead in the polls as he seeks a third term as Brazil's president, suffered a blow as the Supreme Court refused to delay a prison sentence for corruption.

"The constitution secures individual rights, which are fundamental to democracy, but it also assures the exercise of criminal law", she said. But some exemptions have been made in the past, and the ultimate decision would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate.

On the eve of the session that began Wednesday afternoon, the country's army commander raised eyebrows - and was widely celebrated and condemned online - with tweets subtly supporting da Silva's incarceration.

Da Silva is the latest of many high-profile people to be ensnared in possibly the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history.

Last year, Moro convicted Lula for accepting perks from a major construction firm that won lucrative government contracts, including the use of a luxury beachside apartment. Under Brazilian law, a candidate is not permitted to run for elected office for eight years once found guilty of a crime.

Lula, who grew up poor and with little formal education before becoming a trade union leader and politician, says he will go down fighting.

Lula was convicted of corruption and money-laundering in July in connection with the renovation of a beachside penthouse. He appealed in a lower court but lost. In return, Lula helped OAS establish business agreements with the state-run oil company Petrobras.

The Supreme Federal Court's (STF) decision may put an end to da Silva's expected return to politics.

His Workers' Party said the ruling was a "tragic day for democracy and Brazil". Senator Lindbergh Farias called on the ex-president's followers to hold a vigil outside his house from 5 a.m. on Friday morning.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Car Wash, uncovered a huge web of corruption involving top-level politicians from a broad spectrum of parties taking kickbacks.

But this latest appeal would nearly certainly be quickly rejected and Lula, once one of the world's most popular politicians, would be ordered to start his sentence immediately. Rousseff was impeached and removed from office amid corruption scandals and economic crisis in mid-2016.

Perhaps the most revealing response came from the Lava Jato judge in Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Bretas, who retweeted General Villas Boas' threat along with an applause emoticon, adding that he disagreed with those saying that the general's comments amounted to a threat to carry out a military coup.

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