Published: Mon, November 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Brazil's leftist icon Lula walks free from jail

Brazil's leftist icon Lula walks free from jail

Brazil's Supreme Court delivered a ruling that could release nearly 5,000 inmates still appealing their convictions, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other powerful figures jailed in a sprawling corruption investigation.

The move follows a Supreme Court decision Thursday that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted. The leader left the prison after having been incarcerated for 580 days, by decision of Judge Danilo Pereira.

"This restores a sense of hope in Brazil", the New York Times reported Maria do Rosário Nunez, a member of Congress from Brazil's Workers' Party saying after the judge's order was issued.

Lula will be barred from standing for office because of his criminal record. Da Silva denies any wrongdoing and has said the case against him was politically motivated.

Dozens of supporters outside the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba where Lula has been held since April 2018 cheered and waved "Free Lula" signs as lawyer Cristiano Zanin exited the facility after speaking to the popular ex-president.

What was the ruling? If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could find himself imprisoned once again.

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.

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The mandatory imprisonment rule was seen as helping prosecutors secure convictions and unravel the major corruption scandal by encouraging suspects to negotiate plea deals. Critics had argued the court's prior ruling violated Brazil's constitution, which states no one can be considered guilty until due process is concluded.

Criticising Mr Bolsonaro's economic policies, Lula vowed to keep fighting for impoverished Brazilians.

Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, who cast the deciding vote, said releases would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Some 5,000 other prisoners could also seek release because of the Supreme Court ruling, according to Brazilian media.

Moro, who was the Car Wash trial's judge who sentenced Lula before being appointed justice minister by President Jair Bolsonaro's government, warned before the court's decision that overturning the rule would be a big setback for the fight against corruption.

The iconic leader of the Worker's Party was serving a 12-year sentence since 2018 on corruption charges in which executives of the state-run Petrobas oil company are accused of accepting bribes in exchange for construction contracts.

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