Deadline for Lula to turn himself into police expires

Charlene Craig
April 7, 2018

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday spent his last hours before a 12-year prison sentence surrounded by supporters who vowed to fight for his right to run in a presidential race he is now leading.

The Federal Police of Brazil has ready a plane to take former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from Sao Paulo to Curitiba, where he should go to prison today according to the order issued by Judge Sergio Moro.

Brazil's top appeals court has rejected the latest plea by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to stay out of jail until he has exhausted all appeals of his corruption conviction.

Last year, Moro convicted Lula of trading favours with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

Moro said the cell, a separate room with its own toilet, had already been prepared, and that Lula would not be handcuffed - if he came quietly.

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Lula petitioned to the Supreme Court on Thursday to be allowed to remain free while pursuing appeals in higher courts against his conviction for receiving a seaside apartment as a bribe from a construction company. The president is expected in courts of Curitiba (Paraná) to begin 12 years of his conviction for corruption; He, however, is located in São Paulo, home to his former metallurgical syndicate, tucked away by his followers and friends, and preparing a farewell speech.

The speed with which Moro issued the warrant surprised many, as legal observers said there were technicalities from da Silva's upheld appeal that would not be sorted out until next week.

Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper quoted Lula as saying that he would not hand himself in to the federal police in Parana, implying that he would wait to be arrested and forcibly removed from his union redoubt.

Such technicalities "were simply a pathology that should be eliminated from the judicial world", Moro said in his statement.

He won two terms as president, serving from October 2002 until January 2011. He has always maintained his innocence while continuing to campaign across the country the past year.

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Like so much in a nation that has become deeply polarized, that da Silva would soon be behind bars was being interpreted differently by supporters and detractors. "He knows what it is like to have a tough life and loves the poor more than the rich", said dos Santos.

Earlier Thursday, the head of the Workers' Party insisted that da Silva, 72, would be the party's candidate in October.

Technically, beginning to serve his sentence would not keep da Silva off the ballot. The people that have stuck by Lula through all the scandals are mostly the ones who have been with him through his political career - not the upper-middle class and economic elite that helped elect him more than 15 years ago. Rare exceptions have been made in the past, and the final decision would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate.

In theory, once someone has been convicted and lost a lower court appeal, he or she is barred from running for office under Brazil's clean-slate law. Lula da Silva was initially found guilty of the charges in July 2017. He denies any wrongdoing in that case or in several other corruption cases that have yet to be tried.

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