RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian Supreme Court justice said on Friday that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is currently serving a corruption sentence, would only be able to compete in the first round of presidential balloting on Oct. 7 if his conviction is overturned.
Gilmar Mendes said in an interview with foreign correspondents in this metropolis that he saw no chance of the 11-member high court accepting a motion that would allow the popular politician – the clear leader in the polls – to run despite having his initial corruption conviction upheld on appeal.
Mendes said a 2010 law known as Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) clearly states that a defendant whose conviction has been upheld by an appellate court is barred from competing for public office for eight years.
“It’s a case of arithmetic disqualification. The only hypothetical way he could compete in the elections is if he succeeded in having his conviction overturned,” the justice said.
In July 2017, Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for helping Brazilian construction company OAS obtain lucrative contracts from state oil company Petrobras and sentenced him to nine years and six months in prison.
Moro has spearheaded the Lava Jato (Car Wash) probe, which was initially focused on a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scandal centered on Petrobras.
On Jan. 24, an appeals court in the southern city of Porto Alegre voted unanimously to uphold that earlier verdict and also increased Lula’s prison sentence to 12 years and one month.
Lula, who still faces several other corruption-related trials, vehemently denies all of the charges and says they are a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from returning to the presidency.
Although Lula has been imprisoned since April 7 at the Federal Police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba, his Workers’ Party (PT) says it will register him as its candidate in August.
The PT also says it will file motions before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Supreme Court requesting that an exception to the Ficha Limpa law be made in his case.
Separately, five members of the Supreme Court began voting Friday on a motion that Lula’s defense team filed in a bid to secure his release.
Lula’s attorneys say the decision to imprison their client was unlawful because he had not exhausted all appeals before the appellate court that earlier this year upheld his initial conviction.
But Brazilian courts have already ruled against Lula in his procedural challenges, citing Supreme Court rulings that a sentence can be enforced if the conviction is not overturned in the initial round of appeals.