Former Brazil president Lula freed from jail

Nellie Chapman
November 10, 2019

CURITIBA: A judge in Brazil on Friday authorized the release of jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for thousands of convicts to be freed.

"You have no idea the dimension of the significance of me being here with you", Da Silva told jubilant supporters, thanking individual union leaders and members of his leftist Workers' Party.

Da Silva, who is universally known as Lula, tweeted "Lula Free" with a video of himself working out and lifting weights in a gym inside the prison, where he has been detained since April 2018.

Lula, who ruled Brazil in 2003-2010, was set to confront current President Jair Bolsonaro in an election previous year but was blocked by then-judge Sergio Moro who is now justice minister in the Bolsonaro government.

In a sign of the fault lines stretching across Latin America, Argentina's left-wing President-elect Alberto Fernandez was quick to celebrate Lula's release on Friday and criticize his "persecution" by Brazilian courts.

Lula appealed his conviction but it was upheld previous year, and he was put behind bars in April 2018.

"Do not give ammunition to the scoundrel, who is momentarily free but full of guilt", he added, not referring to Lula by name.

"They did not imprison a man".

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His release also could rile conservative Brazilians, and possibly the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who viewed his jailing as a blow against widespread corruption.

The order came hours after Lula's lawyers requested the immediate release of the 74-year-old leftist icon, who has been serving a almost nine-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Lula's release could simultaneously invigorate the left and help Bolsonaro, who was swept to power in 2018 on a wave of anti-PT sentiment, said Thomaz Favaro of Control Risks consultancy. It is not yet clear what political role he will seek now that he is free.

Lula was convicted of corruption in 2017 and lost two appeals since then, but he has not exhausted the entire process.

Exiting the prison to a cheering crowd of supporters in red for Lula's Workers Party, he called for a rally on Saturday at the metalworkers union on the outskirts of Sao Paulo where he got his political start, pledging to follow that up with a national tour.

Aside from the beachfront apartment, he was also sentenced by a lower court judge in a case regarding alleged ownership of a farmhouse in Atibaia, outside Sao Paulo.

That move will initially depend on a judge based in the southern city of Curitiba, where the former president is jailed.

That could change, however, if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Moro had been biased. Protests supporting Moro and his anti-corruption crusade have been scheduled this weekend in major Brazilian cities.

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