Brazilian judge issues arrest warrant for former president Lula da Silva

World Today

A Brazilian judge has issued an arrest warrant for former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, ordering him to surrender to federal police by Friday. It was issued just hours after the Supreme Court denied Lula’s request to stay out of prison while he appeals a corruption conviction.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

The former president was convicted last year on corruption charges and sentenced to just over 12 years in prison, but his lawyers asked the country’s highest court for a ruling to keep him free until all his higher appeals are exhausted.

An intense debate that began Wednesday continued past midnight. The judges final tally was five to five, when the last Justice – the Court’s President, Carmen Lucia – presented her vote. That tilted the balance against Lula by a vote of six to five.

“With all due respect to those who believe that this habeas corpus should be granted, I follow those who voted against it,” said Carmen Lucia, Pres. of the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Brazilian law forbids politicians convicted in criminal courts from running for office. That would apply now to Lula da Silva.

But some lawyers say don’t rule him out just yet. Renato Ribeiro, an election law expert, says there may be an avenue to keep Lula’s name on the presidential ballot this year – even if he’s sent to prison.

“There’s nothing in the law automatically preventing someone who is in jail to apply to be registered as a candidate,” said Ribeiro. “And while the court rules whether the applicant can be a candidate or not, he will have the right to campaign and to have air time on radio and TV allocated to his party.”

Rodrigo Prando, a political science professor at Mackenzie University thinks if Lula is barred from running, he is still expected to have an impact on the October election.

“Of course Lula will be influential. Somebody who’s been in the political scene for 30 years is bound to have some capacity to impact the elections,” said Prando. “But we have to be careful to analyze how much this will actually translate into voting for his chosen candidate. His charisma will not necessarily be enough to transfer his many votes to someone else.”

Just like the Supreme Court, Brazilian society is split when it comes to Lula and his arrest. For the former president’s supporters, this is all part of a plot by right wing parties and interest groups to keep him out of power – since he still leads all voter polls. But Lula’s opponents say he must be punished for his crimes. If only to show that corruption is unacceptable and that no one is above the law.