Will Lula remain in prison?

BRASILIA – The Brazilian Federal Court engaged in a row over former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s stay in prison. Rogerio Favreto, a federal judge who was member of the Workers’ Party, demanded Lula’s immediate release. But Favreto’s request was overturned by other judges.

A dispute over the liberation of former president Lula da Silva boiled last weekend. Federal judge Rogerio Favreto ordered Lula’s release while on call at the court Sunday. Lula is serving a 12-year sentence on corruption charges related to the  Lava Jato scandal. He was accused of receiving a US$ 1.2 million renovation of a beach-side apartment in exchange for giving the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras. Lula denies owning the apartment but started serving his sentence on April 7. He nevertheless registered in January as candidate for this year’s presidential election.

Representatives of the Workers’ Party filed a request for his liberation on July 13. According to Reuters, Rogerio Favreto, who ordered Lula’s release, served in the justice ministry while Lula was president. Favreto argued that the former president should have the same opportunities to run his campaign as the other contenders.

Sergio Moro, the federal judge who presided over Lula’s trial, refused to accept the motion and blocked the release. Moro ordered the police to not let Lula go until the court has deliberated and published a decision. “With all due respect, Favreto has absolutely no qualified authority to override the decision,” said Moro.

But Favreto kept at it. In response, federal judge João Pedro Gebran Neto also blocked the request. After that, Favreto gave the police one hour to set Lula free. But the president of the federal court, Carlos Eduardo Thompson Flores, ruled that the former president will remain in prison.

Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet is supporting Lula’s candidacy. She has released a document signed by 46 Chilean politicians, in which they expressed their concern about Brazil’s political crisis, and their support to the former president. “We ask Brazil’s judiciary to guarantee the full respect for the constitution, allowing Lula to register as a presidential candidate. Brazilian democracy demands it – and [so does] Chilean democracy,” the document reads.

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