A popular Brazilian ex-president has appeared in court amid protests after a three-year corruption investigation.
Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, was Brazil’s first working class president. He served for 8 years and is still arguably the country’s most popular politician. He is also the most famous politician being investigated in the largest corruption probe in Brazilian history, known as Operation Car Wash that has been on-going for 3 years.
The man leading the investigation is Sergio Moro, otherwise known as Super Moro. He is regarded as a hero due to his tough stance against corruption, as anger against the corruption that runs deep in the Brazilian state increases. He has, however, also been criticised for his methods. Last year he leaked a wiretapped conversation between the then-President Dilma Rousseff, and her predecessor Lula, where they discussed her appointing him her chief of staff to protect him from corruption investigations.
The two men facing each other in court was always going to be tense, and there were concerns over violence. Riot police lined the streets to the court in the south-eastern city of Curitiba as protesters assembled in various parts of the town.
The hearing was closed to the press and not broadcast live; however, videos were later released from inside the courtroom. Lula denied the accusations that the construction company OAS had given him a beachside flat as a kickback. He also denied that OAS paid the storage bill on some items during his presidency, and that in return Lula helped OAS to secure contracts with Petrobras, Brazil’s state owned petrol company at the heart of “Operation Car Wash”, as well as receiving R$ 3.7 million (£925 million) from both companies as kickbacks.
Lula has both blamed his wife, who passed away last year, saying that she bought the flat without his knowledge, and denied all knowledge of the apartment, saying neither of their names were on the contract. During this hearing, he did the latter, and criticised the media by accusing them of lying about him and the evidence against him. Moro countered this by telling him that the media wouldn’t affect the verdict, and that only the law and available evidence would influence the decision.
Brazilian media gave the event live coverage due to its controversial nature. Many people adore Lula, who raised the minimum wage and increased benefits, and believe that the investigation is intended to stop him running for president in 2018. Others deeply dislike him for the increased corruption that grew during his presidency.
The verdict from the court case will be announced in July, and it will decide the future of Brazilian politics. If Lula is pronounced not guilty, he will run for president, and if the polls stay as they are now, he has a very good chance of winning.
However, a week after his court case the Federal Police announced that they were investigating Lula for passive corruption during his second presidency, stating that he knew that his party, the Workers’ Party, received R$ 6 million (around £1.5 million) illegally.
The evidence against the party that used to be the cleanest in Brazilian politics, and the man who created it, is mounting. The Workers’ Party still defend Lula by saying that it is a right-wing plot to stop him from running, whether that is true is looking more and more unlikely.