BRASILIA – Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is currently dogged by numerous corruption charges, vowed once again on Wednesday to prove his innocence in court and run for president in next year’s elections.
Lula, who governed the South American nation from 2003 to the end of 2010 and is still its most prominent political figure, made his remarks a day after a court in the southern city of Porto Alegre said that on Jan. 24 it would rule on the ex-president’s appeal of a corruption conviction.
“I want you to be at ease. When I’m found innocent, I’ll be a candidate,” the charismatic former labor leader said in a meeting with Workers’ Party (PT) lawmakers in the Brazilian capital.
Lula, who also is the subject of several other indictments, most related to the sprawling Car Wash probe into a massive corruption scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, was sentenced to 9½ in prison in July for bribe-taking and money laundering.
In the initial verdict, federal Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting bribes from construction company OAS in exchange for helping that firm obtain lucrative Petrobras contracts.
The bribes came in the form of 3.7 million reais ($1.1-million at the current exchange rate) worth of refurbishments to a luxury seaside triplex in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, according to the ruling.
If the Porto Alegre appeals court upholds that conviction, the former head of state would be barred from standing for a third term in elections scheduled for October 2018.
The PT criticized the court’s decision to issue its ruling just months after receiving the case, a move the center-left party says is aimed at wrecking its candidate’s presidential bid before it can even get off the ground.
But Lula said he had long publicly disapproved of how slowly the wheels of justice turn in his country and would not start criticizing the courts now that they are acting expeditiously.
He reiterated that he is the victim of “political and media persecution” aimed at preventing him from returning to the presidency.
The ex-head of state has led in all voter-preference surveys conducted to date.