SAO PAULO Ė Brazilís Superior Tribunal of Justice, the countryís second-highest judicial body, ruled unanimously on Tuesday that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva can be jailed even before he fully exhausts the appeals process following a conviction on corruption charges.
The five judges rejected the preventive habeas corpus motion presented by Lulaís defense team to prevent his being immediately sent to prison if his second appeal fails.
On Jan. 24, an appellate panel upheld the former presidentís conviction for bribe-taking and money laundering and increased his sentence from nine years to 12.
Lulaís attorneys have appealed that ruling.
The Superior Tribunal cited Supreme Court rulings that a sentence can be enforced if the conviction is not overturned in the initial round of appeals, even when a defendant has the right to have the case reviewed by higher courts.
The defense also submitted a habeas corpus motion to the Supreme Court, which has yet to render a decision.
The case against Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, is based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted as part of the sprawling investigation of a $2 billion corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
Despite his precarious legal situation, the center-left Workers Party he helped found has affirmed that Lula will be its standard-bearer in this yearís presidential election.
While Lula continues to lead in the polls, a majority oppose his candidacy in light of the corruption conviction.
Lula would get 18.6 percent of the vote if the election were today, followed with 12.3 percent by far-right lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro, an apologist for the brutal military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985, according to the result of a poll commissioned by the transportation industry association.