The former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has defied a court order to turn himself into authorities and begin a jail sentence.
‘Lula’, as he is universally known in Brazil, spent the day at his union headquarters just outside São Paulo, where a crowd of supporters had gathered.
He maintains he is a victim of political persecution, and that allegations he received a bribe while on office in the form of a seaside apartment from a Brazilian construction company are entirely false.
But having lost an initial appeal against that charge, on Thursday Lula’s legal options dramatically narrowed after the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled 6-5 that he could not avoid jail pending further appeals.
Judge Sergio Moro, who has led multiple corruption investigations against the former President, and other political and business leaders over the last three years, issued an order that the former President should surrender himself to justice by attending a federal police station.
In an exclusive interview with CGTN in his Curitiba offices in Southern Brazil, the judge told me he was treating the former President, who enjoyed unprecedented popularity during Brazil’s boom years a decade ago, the same way as any convicted criminal.
“He was convicted for money laundering and corruption”, he said. “And you have to enforce the judgement. It’s as simple as that. I don’t see any specific reason to postpone it anymore”.
Sergío Moro, a meticulous, quietly spoken man, said he drew inspiration from the “clean hands” operation in Italy in the early 90’s, which led to the successful prosecution of dozens of corrupt politicians, many of whom were previously considered immune.
He stressed he too believes he just follows the law.
“I received an order from the appeal court, ordering the arrest so I just complied with the order.”
As night fell on Friday, Brazilian media reported that no arrest attempt would be made on the former President until daylight Saturday at the earliest. Negotiations are continuing as to how and when the man once described by Barack Obama as “the world’s most popular president” will begin his jail term.