SAO PAULO – Leaders of the Workers Party (PT) said on Monday that Brazilian police and judges are conspiring to keep former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva behind bars to prevent him from representing the party in this year’s presidential contest.
“Lula was practically in the doorway of the Federal Police (jail) to leave and unhappily, through a plot, they stopped him leaving,” the PT chair, Sen. Gleisi Hoffmann, told reporters in Sao Paulo.
The PT executive committee met following Sunday’s flurry of conflicting court orders regarding the status of Lula, held since April 7 at a Federal Police facility in the southern city of Curitiba.
One magistrate, Rogerio Favreto, ruled in favor of a habeas corpus motion filed by the PT to demand Lula’s release on the grounds that he has yet to exhaust his appeals against a corruption conviction.
Within hours, a member of a regional appellate panel that upheld the conviction struck down Favreto’s order.
Favreto reinstated his ruling and instructed Federal Police to free the former president, only for a third judge to step in and quash the order for a second time.
Hoffman described the intervention by the second and third judges as a “maneuver” to keep Lula’s name off the ballot for the Oct. 7 presidential election.
Lula, 72, remains Brazil’s most popular politician and continues to lead in the polls.
In July 2017, the former head of state was found guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for helping Brazilian construction company OAS obtain lucrative contracts from state oil giant Petrobras and sentenced to nine years and six months in prison.
On Jan. 24, an appeals court voted unanimously to uphold that earlier verdict and increase Lula’s prison sentence to 12 years and one month.
The three-judge panel ruled there was sufficient proof that Lula accepted the triplex in Guaruja from OAS in exchange for helping that firm secure contracts with Petrobras.
The case against Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, is based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted as part of the sprawling Petrobras investigation.
Brazilian jurists say that unless his conviction were overturned, Lula would be unlikely to get his name on the ballot even if he were released from custody.