The trial of Lula: Witch-hunt against former president enters final stage
In this March 5, 2016 file photo, Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets supporters outside his residence in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil. | Andre Penner / AP

Over 211,000 people have signed the petition “Elections without Lula are fraud,” among them legal professionals, academics, politicians, artists and union leaders across the world, including Noam Chomsky. Their target: the tribunal deciding the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva’s political fate.

Today, the corruption case against Lula will be tried on appeal. He is currently well ahead in the polls for the presidential elections in October this year, but if the appellate court decides to uphold the conviction, which is very likely, Lula will not be able to stand for re-election.

Critics charge that political actors connected to the coup government of Michel Temer have fixed the outcome. They fear the verdict is already in before the case is even heard.

There is something rotten in the Brazilian judicial system. An average appeal to the second-tier court hearing Lula’s appeal, the TRF4 in Porto Alegre, typically takes at least 70 days to be assessed. Lula’s appeal was assessed in record time, 42 days, with the second judge only taking six days to make up his mind.

In addition, other cases were put aside so it would be heard as quickly as possible, raising suspicions that the timing has more to do with stopping Lula becoming a candidate than it does with seeking justice. Brazil’s stock exchange is already celebrating in anticipation of the verdict.

Lula was accused of illegally receiving an apartment in a popular beach resort as part of the Operation Car Wash corruption and money-laundering scandal swirling around the state oil giant, Petrobras. The trial was not able to prove Lula was the owner of the apartment in question.

As of now, the apartment is still in the name of construction company OAS and has been given as security to a bank in exchange for financial investment. This apartment was meant to be the fruit of a kickback related to three Petrobras contracts with OAS.

No solid links were found, however, between the fraudulent contracts and Lula’s actions or the apartment. Yet Lula was convicted and sentenced to over nine years in prison.

There are other problems with the trial. Judge Sergio Moro was the investigation judge and also the trial judge, which is why human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson is taking Lula’s case to the UN.

Furthermore, Moro did not convict Lula on the basis of the evidence provided by the public prosecutors. He agreed that no links could be found between Lula’s actions and the Petrobras contract, so instead Lula was convicted on the basis of “undetermined and unidentified” illicit acts—essentially, he was found guilty of an unknown crime.

The judge “attributed” the apartment to Lula, even though he did not specify what “attributing a property to someone” involves.

That is why many people across the world are defending Lula’s right to have a fair trial and his right to stand in the next presidential elections. Today, there will are major acts in support of Lula in Porto Alegre, where the trial is taking place, and in many other cities in Brazil.

The coup government of Temer has good reason for targeting Lula for judicial persecution. The former Workers Party president’s popularity has soared. The latest polls show the Brazilian people give him a 45 percent approval rating, more than double his two closest political rivals, Geraldo Alckmin at 13 percent and Jair Bolsonaro at 15 percent.

Poll numbers indicate that if Lula is able to run, he is most likely to win the 2018 elections, which means Temer’s rushed agenda of privatization would see a likely reversal and his right-wing administration would face an investigation of its own misdeeds.

This article originally appeared in Morning Star. It has been updated with further material since first publication.


Mariana Noviello
Mariana Noviello

Mariana Noviello writes in Portuguese on Cafezinho, one of the top political blogs in Brazil, and in English for Morning Star, the socialist daily published in the UK.