SAO PAULO – The political party founded by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on Monday for a popular mobilization after leaked documents pointed to questionable conduct by the judge who put Brazil’s most popular politician behind bars.
The center-left Workers Party (PT) spoke out after The Intercept, an online news outlet, published the contents of private communications among prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who convicted Lula on corruption charges and is now minister of justice.
Moro oversaw the sprawling probe known as “Lava Jato” (Car Wash), which centered on a $2 billion corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
Messages exchanged between Moro and prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol via the Telegram app show that the judge was deeply involved in shaping the prosecution strategy against Lula, 73.
Prosecutors did not dispute the authenticity of the material, which shows, in the words of The Intercept, “that Moro secretly and unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula despite serious internal doubts about the evidence supporting the accusations, only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator.”
Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, was found guilty by Moro in 2017 of accepting bribes from construction company OAS in the form of renovations to a seaside condo that the former two-term president never owned or occupied.
The conviction was upheld on appeal and he has been incarcerated for the last 16 months, which led to his being barred from the 2018 presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.
The ex-head of state also was convicted by federal Judge Gabriela Hardt in another corruption case in February of this year and sentenced to 12 years and 11 months behind bars.
In that second case, the former president was found to have illegally benefited from property renovations carried out by construction companies that received inflated contracts from Petrobras during Lula’s 2003-2011 tenure.
Again, Lula never owned the property in question.
“The revelations by The Intercept Brasil expose the true dimension of a criminal plot in conversations that cover the Brazilian judicial system in shame,” the PT said in a statement.
The content of the communications “prove Moro’s bias and his acting as the orchestrator of an accusation that was manipulated from the start,” the PT said.
Lula’s exclusion from the 2018 election paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro – a professed admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime – to win the presidency. One of his first Cabinet appointments was naming Moro to head the Justice Ministry.
Moro sought to wrest importance from the messages published Sunday by The Intercept.
“There is no sign of any abnormality or providing directions as a magistrate, despite being taken out of context and the sensationalism of the articles, they ignore the gigantic corruption scheme revealed by Operation Car Wash,” he said in a statement.
But Right of Defense, an association of criminal lawyers, said the law is clear that a judge may not decide a case if he or she “has advised any of the parties.”
Reviewing every verdict handed down by Moro “is indispensable to placing Brazilian justice back on the path of legality,” the group said.
The PT chair, congresswoman Gleisi Hoffmann, said that Lula’s convictions should be thrown out.
“Moro and Dallagnol wounded the Brazilian Constitution, which establishes the prosecutorial system in the penal process, in which the roles of accuser and judge cannot be mixed,” Hoffmann wrote on Twitter.