Supreme Court rejects former president Lula da Silva's plea to avoid jail

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was on the verge of going to prison Thursday after the Supreme Court rejected his bid to delay a 12-year sentence for corruption in a ruling that split the country and upended this year's election.

Rafael Guedes told journalists that the order will "put the spotlight even more on the ex-president".

A three-judge appeals panel then upheld that conviction in January - and increased Lula's sentence to 12 years.

After almost 11 hours of often heated debate, the justices of the Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 6-5 to deny da Silva's preventative habeas corpus request to stave off a 12-year jail sentence while he fights a conviction in a case that he argues was nothing more than a ploy to keep him off of October's presidential ballot. 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.

"The Brazilian people have the right to vote for Lula, the candidate of hope", Lula's Workers' Party wrote on Twitter after the announcement, according to an Associated Press translation.

The 72-year-old leftist politician who served as the country's president between 2003 and 2011 had his sights set on winning back the office in the election in October, a prospect now very remote despite his lead in opinion polls.

A former metalworker and trade union activist, he was the first left-wing leader to make it to the presidency in Brazil in almost half a century.

"It was applied to only one person", she said.

The debate at the Supreme Federal Tribunal underscored how fraught the matter is at a time of high tension and angst in Brazil.

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.

Supporters hail Moro as a hero taking on endemic corruption while detractors, particularly supporters of da Silva's Workers' Party, consider him a partisan hit man.

Mr da Silva, who is known as Lula, claims that the charges are politically motivated and threaten a return to dictatorship. Some exemptions have been made in the past, and the ultimate decision in Lula's case would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate.

More protests - for and against Lula - were planned in Brasilia on Wednesday, with demonstrators separated by a metal barrier and heavy police presence.

Lula's conviction was upheld on a first appeal.

  • Rogelio Becker