The chief of Brazilian’s appeal court has overruled another judge’s ruling to immediately release former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula, from prison. The effort to release the charismatic politician was related to the upcoming election held in October. Lula is seeking his third term in office in this year’s poll.
Rogerio Favreto, the judge who ruled in favor of Lula’s release, argued that the elderly former president should be given the same condition just like other candidates to campaign. Favreto once served in the Ministry of Justice under Lula.
“I order the IMMEDIATE compliance with the judicial measure to free the defendant, under penalty of punishment for non-compliance with a judicial order,” Favreto said in an official letter of order.
The judge overruling Faverto was Sergio Moro responded to the order for Lula’s release by ordering police to keep Lula in jail. Moro also cast doubt over Favreto’s competence in issuing a ruling supporting the leftist political figure’s release.
“Judge Sergio Moro … said the judge on duty did not have the authority to order Lula’s release,” Brazilian news network Globo said.
Then Judge Joao Pedro Gebran Neto followed Moro’s suit by issuing an order to keep Lula in jail. Moro was the judge who handled Lula’s case at the regional federal court and convicted him.
Lula was charged with bribery after receiving a luxury beachfront apartment worth $657,734 as a kickback after helping the country’s largest construction firm win a contract from state-owned oil firm Petrobras. He also faces six other graft-related charges, but he denies any wrongdoings. The 72-year-old man surrendered to start his new life behind bars after a two-day of drama in front of the Steelworkers Union headquarters.
The graft allegation targeting Lula stemmed from an investigation called the Car Wash Operation, which allegedly involved the country’s top political figures.
Lula’s lawyers argued that there was no evidence that Lula received an apartment. Lula also said that the claim (about his ownership of the apartment) was merely based on the company’s statement.
Is the court’s move politically motivated?
Lula is still one of the most admired leaders, both in Brazil and worldwide, regardless of what is happening to him right now. His pro-poor welfare program lifted millions of people out of poverty while he was in office.
Despite his imprisonment, some Brazilians cast their doubt over Lula’s conviction, believing it is politically motivated. They see the court’s ruling to block Lula’s release as a means to prevent him from running in this year’s poll.
“It’s not about whether he’s a guilty or not, it’s about keeping him out of the presidential race,” said Brazilian journalist Alin Piva to Sputniknews.
Another expert slammed Lula’s Workers Party (PT) for deliberately creating chaos and ruining the judicial system to win sympathy from voters.
“The Brazilian people should not pay the price of a demoralized justice system because of the PT’s political strategy,” Ivan Hartmann, a law professor told AFP.
Hartmann added that the PT’s strategy to blast Lula’s persecution will not help him gain more votes.
“They’re preaching to the choir. I don’t think this strategy will have convinced those who are undecided,” Hartmann said.
What’s the impact on the election?
Despite his conviction, Lula still leads opinion polls in Brazil for the October election. The latest survey in June, conducted by Datafolha, showed him with 30 percent of the vote. But, Brazilian constitution bars anyone facing criminal charges from running for office.
If Lula is barred from participating in the election, the turnout is expected to be low, and candidates with a more mobilized based will likely win the poll.
The election will be held on October 7. If none of the candidates win the majority of the votes, the run-off will take place on October 28.
The court will announce the eligibility of each candidate on September 17.