Brazil court upholds corruption charges against ex-president Lula

World Today

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a rally in his support by trade unionists and members of social movements in Sao Paulo, Brazil on January 24, 2018. A Brazilian appeals court Wednesday upheld ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s conviction for corruption, effectively ending his hopes of reelection this year. Two of the three judges in the appeals court in the southern city of Porto Alegre ruled that his original 9.5-year jail sentence should be extended to more than 12 years. ( AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL)

In Brazil, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has lost his appeal of a corruption conviction. At an appeals court Wednesday, judges unanimously voted to uphold Lula’s conviction, and increase his prison time. The former president’s lawyers are now expected to file new appeals, not only to keep him out of jail, but to make sure he can run for president again this year.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

Thousands of Lula da Silva’s supporters gathered in Porto Alegre to follow the former president’s federal appeal of his corruption conviction.

Despite their protests, there were no surprises. Lula da Silva’s conviction was upheld and his sentence was increased, from the original nine-and-half years in prison to just over 12 years.

For Lula’s camp, this was all part of a political game to eliminate him from this year’s presidential race.

“Lula da Silva is a victim of injustice and persecution,” Gleisi Hoffmann, President of the Workers’ Party said. “Any violence against him is violence against democracy.”

The three-judge appeals panel ruled unanimously against the former president. The result is particularly bad for Lula as the unanimity limits the scope of possible appeals.

He does not face immediate arrest as there are pending appeals, but jail is still a possibility in the coming weeks. Prosecutors maintained the case was clear-cut while Lula’s lawyers insisted their client was innocent.

“In this case there was no evidence of guilt and, on the contrary, there’s evidence of innocence,” Lula’s defense lawyer, Cristiano Zanini said.

The federal prosecutor believes otherwise.

“Lula’s supporters and defense team are ignoring everything that has been brought to court,” said federal prosecutor Mauricio Gerum. “It’s easier to say there is no evidence for conviction and that this is a political judgement.”

On the eve of the trial, Lula da Silva came to Porto Alegre to speak to the thousands of supporters who had come from all over Brazil to rally in his defense, and to support his ambition to serve for a third time as Brazil’s president.

“I am totally calm. I carry the tranquility of those who are innocent,” said former president Lula da Silva. “I am not sure if the problem is that they are afraid Lula will be back as president this year. Well, if they are afraid, they’d better be.”

The big question now is whether Lula will be allowed to run for president in the election set for October. Brazilian law bars convicted politicians from running for office, but with Lula’s lawyers promising to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, there may not be a final ruling in this case for some time to come.

Rafael Salies of Southern Pulse Brazilian discusses court decision on Lula

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with journalist Rafael Salies about the court decision around former Brazilian President “Lula.”