The ex-President of Brazil ended a stand-off with the police when he complied with his arrest warrant and handed himself into begin his 12-year sentence for corruption and money-laundering, but the UK’s top human rights lawyer is taking his case to the UN for breach of human rights.
Less than a day after Brazil’s Supreme Court denied an appeal from Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva by 6 votes to 5, the judge in charge of the corruption scandal issued the ex-president’s arrest warrant. Lula’s supporters gathered en masse in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, where Lula was staying in the metalworkers’ trade union, where he started his career, urging him to resist arrest.
A tense stand-off between Lula, his supporters and the police ensued. The judge who ordered Lula’s arrest, Sergio Moro, seen by many as an anti-corruption hero, demanded that he arrive in the southern city of Curitiba by 5pm on Friday 6th April. However, Lula remained in his union until Saturday morning, and his first attempt to leave the building was thwarted by the thousands of supporters who would not let the car leave.
On Saturday afternoon Lula gave an impassioned one-hour speech, where he said he would continue to fight to prove his innocence. He was then carried on the shoulders of his supporters (see above) before willingly flying to Curitiba to begin his jail sentence. He was greeted in Curitiba by more supporters who continued to protest outside the prison.
Lula is one of many politicians to be caught up in the Operation Car Wash scandal, which even inspired Netflix’s new series, The Mechanism. He stands accused of being given a beach-front apartment worth over half a million dollars in exchange for helping to secure contracts with the state-owned oil company Petrobras for the construction company OAS in a multimillion dollar fraudulent scheme. Originally sentenced to 9 and a half years in prison, Lula’s sentence was upheld and extended in January by an Appeals Court in Porto Alegre to 12 years imprisonment.
Lula had planned to run in the Brazilian presidential elections, and polls showed him to be the favourite candidate of many, despite his corruption charges. The current President, Michel Temer, has also faced corruption allegations, but avoided prosecution by virtue of a parliamentary impeachment being required for a sitting President to face trial, and his party, the centre-right Brazilian Democratic Movement, holding enough seats along with allies to defeat an attempted impeachment in August 2017. The Temer government’s approval rating has marginally risen since last summer’s failed impeachment, but only to 5%.
Supporters of the Workers’ Party allege that Sergio Moro is deliberately prosecuting Lula so quickly to ensure he cannot run in the presidential elections, scheduled for October. Over the past two years, Sergio Moro has ordered Lula’s property seized, bank accounts scrutinized and all phone calls tapped. The calls were subsequently leaked by the judge to the media, even though they were meant to be kept secret, including a conversation that had been taped after the warrant to tap Lula’s calls had expired.
The UN Human Rights Council is currently studying a petition filed by Geoffrey Robertson, a top human rights lawyer in the UK, who is representing Lula. The petition argues that the judge has been biased against Lula, and has not given him a fair trial.