SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for corruption, told supporters protesting his conviction on Thursday that he was being persecuted by political opponents, after a judge ordered his assets to be frozen.
The protests, held in cities across Brazil, were called by the Workers Party (PT) – which Lula founded in 1980 – as well as by unions and progressive social movements.
The protesters denounced Judge Sergio Moro’s July 12 ruling, which found Lula guilty of passive corruption and money laundering for benefiting from the so-called “Car Wash” corruption plot that diverted millions from state-owned energy company Petrobras.
“This country is without authority, without credibility. The judiciary no longer fulfils its role in guaranteeing the Constitution,” Lula told protesters gathered in Sao Paulo.
Lula has accused his opponents of using the courts to prevent him returning to politics.
If Lula’s sentence is upheld after an appeal, he would be barred from running for president in next year’s elections.
He has pledged to fight to the end to prove his innocence after becoming the first former president of the country to be criminally indicted since the restoration of democracy in 1985.