Brazil supreme court ruling could free Lula

Supporters of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrate a Supreme Court ruling that could benefit him

Supporters of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrate a Supreme Court ruling that could benefit him

The Brazilian Supreme Court on Thursday revoked a law that requires convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal, a politically charged ruling that can lead to the release of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"The plenary of the Supreme Court considers that imprisonment based exclusively on a criminal conviction can only take place after all the possibilities of appeal have been finalized", the court said in a Twitter statement Thursday.

"You will have Lula more present on the political scene and that allows Bolsonaro to reinforce his role as leader of the anti-PT field", Favaro said.

Lula, who ruled Brazil in 2003-2010, was set to confront current President Jair Bolsonaro in an election past year but was blocked by then-judge Sergio Moro who is now justice minister in the Bolsonaro government. He was favourite to win last year's presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption investigation. Lula had been favorite to win the 2018 election but his imprisonment barred him from running.

The decision means thousands of convicts could be released from prison, including Lula, who is among dozens of political and business leaders caught up in a sprawling corruption probe. Justices voted to reinterpret the country's penal code in a six-five vote issued on Thursday.

It overturns a three-year-old ruling which threatened suspects with immediate prison time before their appeals were exhausted.

Lula's lawyers have already called for his release in response to the judgement.

The country's Car Wash task force described Thursday's overturning as being "inconsistent" with efforts to fight corruption. In recent days, scores of politicians have lobbied Supreme Court President Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, who cast the deciding vote, to maintain the ruling.

Lula, as he is universally known among Brazilians, was jailed in April 2018 after a group of judges upheld his conviction for corruption and money laundering. That could change, however, if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, had been biased.

According to the National Justice Council, some 4,895 convicted people could potentially benefit from changing the rules.

Earlier this year, he was sentenced to another 12 years after being found guilty of accepting bribes in the form of renovation work at a country house from construction companies. If he is freed, Lula's criminal record will prevent him from resuming his political career.

He is former trade union activist and remains an iconic and popular figure for the left.

His Workers Party welcomed the court's decision.

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