Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is negotiating the terms of his surrender to police, hours after a deadline set by a judge has passed and as his legal team files another request before the Supreme Court to avoid prison.
Having let it be known early today that he had no intention of traveling to Curitiba to comply with a jail order set by Judge Sérgio Moro, Lula spent the day in the Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos de São Bernardo do Campo, near to São Paulo, meeting with allies and watching sympathizers stream towards the union offices to show their support.
As night fell and with thousands of people surrounding the union building and after the deadline for his surrender had passed, the Brazilian Federal Police made it clear that they would not be moving to arrest Lula, citing concerns for the safety of Lula supporters and the police itself. According to Brazilian law, arrests must take place during daylight hours. Reports suggested that Lula intends to attend a ceremony outside the union building tomorrow marking his late wife’s birthday. Lula could be taken into custody tomorrow or Monday according to those reports.
Only hours before the deadline for his surrender, the Superior Tribunal de Justiça (STJ), a court a step below the Supreme Court, rejected an habeas corpus request filed today in order to stay the prison order. Lula’s lawyers sought to have the prison order quashed on the basis of what they argue are irregularities and the “rush” to imprison their client. Judge Felix Fischer rejected the motion.
Da Silva’s lawyers have appealed that rejection before the Supreme Court (STF), ensuring that his fate is once again in the hands of the country’s highest court. Regardless of the outcome, the PT leader’s lawyer Antonio Batochio has made it clear that even if Lula starts his 12-year prison sentence and will not resist police officers when he is eventually detained, “he will not go to slaughterhouse with his head bowed.”
Lula was given 24 hours yesterday to turn himself in and last night called the order arbitrary before proceeding this morning to tell Brazilian media that he would not be complying. The former president spent the night in Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos de São Bernardo do Campo, with supporters camped outside and meeting with party leaders and associates. Groups celebrating the PT leader’s imminent arrest also made their presence felt.
Lula was detained by the military dictatorship in 1980 for a leading a strike, also in São Bernardo do Campo, and the city has played a significant role in the history and growth of the PT.
Judge Sérgio Moro, who first convicted Lula in 2017 on corruption charges, filed the prison order yesterday following the Brazilian Supreme Court’s rejection of an habeas corpus appeal, removing the last major obstacle to the ex president from being taken into custody to serve a prison sentence for a corruption conviction. Lula denies any wrongdoing and calls the charges politically motivated.