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Brazil’s Lula faces arrest with new ruling

Brazil’s Lula faces arrest with new ruling

Brazil’s Lula faces arrest with new ruling
March 07
11:02 2018

A Brazilian high court has denied a legal bid by ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to fend off imprisonment, ruling that he can be taken into custody if his 12-year jail term is upheld on appeal.

The Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected Lula’s habeas corpus petition, adding more uncertainty to the political future of the 72-year-old former president, who wishes to re-run for office in the presidential election in October.

Lula now faces a more potent likelihood of imprisonment on alleged corruption and money-laundering charges, which he has denied.

Lula served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and left office as the nation’s most popular leader ever. His fate now depends on the ruling of a lower regional court that sentenced him earlier in January to a prison term of 12 years and one month.

If the regional court also rejects Lula’s appeal of the sentence, he would be susceptible to imprisonment even pending further appeals before higher courts.

The hearing on Tuesday focused on whether detaining the former president before all his possibilities of appeal have been exhausted would infringe upon the presumption of innocence, as his lawyers argued.

Every one of the court’s five members rejected that argument.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launches his pre-candidacy for the presidency, at the Expominas in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, Brazil, February 21, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice ruled in 2016 that defendants whose convictions had been upheld could be taken into custody.

That ruling became an essential prosecutorial tool in dismantling the network of corrupt politicians, company executives, and contractors that had embezzled funds from oil firm Petrobras over a period of years.

However, Lula’s lawyer Joao Sepulveda Pertence, a former judge on the Superior Court of Justice, argued that the court had ruled only on “the possibility” of jailing a defendant before all appeals have been exhausted, not on the obligation for imprisonment.

Lula faces seven criminal proceedings. He has declared his innocence in all of them.

He was convicted in 2017 and originally sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for accepting a luxury apartment from a construction company involved in a wide-ranging corruption probe, which uncovered a web of kickbacks, bribes, and slush funds involving top politicians from nearly every party and across the business world.

Lula’s lawyers appealed that conviction, but it was upheld unanimously in January by a regional federal court in Porto Alegre, which further raised his prison term to 12 years and one month.

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