Brazil's Supreme Court has ruled that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva should face jail in a historic decision that is set to further divide Latin America's largest country ahead of elections in October.
Lula, as he is known, has said the case against him is politically motivated and created to keep him from running. Those competing visions mirror the increasingly polarized election campaign in which a hard-right former army officer, Jair Bolsonaro, is now second in the polls behind Lula, with centrists struggling to make ground. His Workers Party said last night that the ruling was a "tragic day..."
Ten hours into the session, five justices had voted against da Silva and five in his favour. In a note, Moro said he was giving da Silva the opportunity to come in on his own accord because he had been a president of the nation. Despite his lead in the polls, he remains a divisive figure.
More than 20,000 people gathered in Sao Paolo on Tuesday, calling for his immediate imprisonment while supporters too rallied in large numbers in a rival demonstration.
While Brazilians are used to frequent delays and rambling verdicts in their courts, this 10-hour deliberation felt particularly long in this highly charged atmosphere.
Lula's critics though see this as a victory.
The judgement represents the latest setback in the stunning fall-from-grace of one of Brazil's most loved politicians.
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However, the Supreme Court was considering a 2016 ruling from a lower court, under which defendants could be sent to jail after a failed first appeal.
In a 6-5 decision, the Supreme Federal Tribunal rejected da Silva's request to remain free while he appeals a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.
The leader is yet to be tried for several other corruption charges against him.
The Brazilian Democratic Movement party will formally decide which candidate it hopes to move forward with a selection to lead its party in the national election in either the month of June or July, during the Brazilian winter.
Lula presided over a considerable economic expansion during his two terms in office. The conviction was handed down by Judge Sergio Moro, who is presiding over cases involving the mammoth "Car Wash" investigation.
Lula was convicted in 2017 of corruption for receiving roughly US$755,000 in bribes from construction company "OAS" in an apartment swap, where a simple flat bought by Lula was traded for a seaside apartment in the same building.
The defence says Lula's ownership of the apartment has never been proven and that his conviction rests largely on the word of the former chairman of OAS, himself convicted of corruption. I can't accept Lula out of the election.
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An arrest warrant must be issued before Lula would be taken into custody.
He has not exhausted his appeals yet. Now around 53% of Brazilians want him jailed.
Neither of those courts would re-examine whether Lula was guilty of corruption. Last week, a court upheld the conviction.
That law would rule Lula out from running for the presidency in October.
Protests broke out across Brazil on Wednesday, both in support of the court's decision and against what some view as a coup and an affront to democracy, according to the BBC. These courts have the power to annul Lula's conviction while another court -the Superior Electoral Court- will decide if he is allowed to run for president again.
The TSE will not make a decision on whether Lula can run or not until he has registered as a candidate and he has until 15 August to do so.
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