Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been given 24 hours to surrender to police in order to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence.
Judge Sergio Moro, who first convicted Lula in 2017 on corruption charges, filed the order today following the Brazilian Supreme Court’s rejection of an habeas corpus appeal, removing the last major obstacle to the president from being taking into custody to serve a prison sentence for a corruption conviction. Lula denies any wrongdoing and calls the charges politically motivated.
Moro has prohibited the police from using handcuffs and specified that Lula be held separately from other prisoners in the police station for his personal safety and in recognition of the “dignity of the position” held by the ex-president in the past.
The former president has been ordered to surrender to police in Curitiba. He was in São Paulo today.
Da Silva’s Workers’ Party (PT) rallied around its leader today, openly calling the decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) a “tragic day for democracy and for Brazil” and reaffirming his presidential candidacy.
The STF decision comes in the run-up to the October presidential elections and deepening polarization in South America’s largest economy. Lula has won the endorsement of the Workers’ Party (PT) to run for the presidency but faces a challenge from electoral laws prohibiting candidates who have had criminal convictions upheld.
In response to the STF’s decision the PT today expressed its full support for the two-time president, with party chair Gleisi Hoffman saying that “Lula is a candidate because he is innocent and his imprisonment would be an act of violence. That has been already understood by the world.”
Hoffman added that the party believes Lula’s arrest is politically motivated and that Brazil risks becoming a “Banana republic.” The PT leader leads in opinion polls for the October presidential elections, but it remains uncertain if he will be able to run given the criminal conviction.
Hoffmann and other PT leaders met with da Silva in São Paulo today to chart a response to the STF’s decision.
A PT statement noted that “Our Constitution was torn apart by those who should defend it and the majority of the Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) sanctioned another violent action against the country’s greatest popular leader, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“By denying Lula a right that should be for every citizen, of defending himself in liberty until the final judicial decision, the majority of the STF knelt before the pressure scandalously orchestrated by the Rede Globo TV Network.”
Lula has not spoken publicly since his appeal was rejected by the STF. His lawyers released a statement today calling the STF’s ruling a “violation of human dignity and the fundamental guarantees” and promising to use all available means to prevent the prison sentence from being set into motion. Lula’s defense team has argued consistently that until all appeals are exhausted a defendant should not be considered guilty nor held in prison.
Enough Supreme Court justices yesterday disagreed with that interpretation of the Constitution, voting 6 to 5 against da Silva.
Separately, Télam has reported that jurist Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro has filed a brief before the Supreme Court to revise the constitutionality of defendants being imprisoned after a conviction that has been upheld by an appeals court. Should the Supreme Court accept the petition, the eventual ruling would be applicable to da Silva’s situation.
While the Argentine government has not issued a public statement concerning the ruling, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tweeted her support for Lula, as did Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Uruguayan Vice-President Lucía Topolansky.