Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva has lost his appeal against a corruption conviction last year in a major blow to his chances of regaining office.
The judgment was reached on January 24 after two of the three appeal court judges in the case voted to uphold the decision of a lower court. While Lula can still take his appeal to a higher court, the court's decision could rule him out of October's presidential election.
Lula's lawyers, Cristiano Zanin Martins and Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martins, released a joint statement within hours of the ruling, saying: "President Lula has been subjected to a political prosecution and conviction. This verdict is not safe and is a miscarriage of justice and we will continue to fight this political conviction.
"One campaigning judge decided to investigate, prosecute and convict on no evidence. Today, three judges have chosen to ignore evidence of innocence and the rule of law. In doing so they have triggered a crisis of confidence in the rule of law.
"We have proven that it has been impossible for Lula to receive a fair trial. The whole process from the very beginning has been a legal farce masquerading as justice.
"Today's verdict has a bigger consequence than just one man – this affects all Brazilians... We will continue to fight this political conviction and we will win this fight, not just for Lula but for all Brazilians who believe that the rule of law and democracy must prevail."
In July last year, Judge Sergio Moro alleged the former leftist president was guilty of corruption and money laundering, resulting in a ten-year jail sentence.
The 72-year-old leftist leader has maintained that the case is politically motivated to remove him from the presidential race.
Lula's exclusion from the election would radically alter the country's political landscape ahead of October's presidential election.
Lula is currently the clear favourite in the poll with 36% of voters favouring his candidacy according to pollster Datafolha. That is double the percentage of his nearest rival, far-right parliamentarian and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, who has been energised by anti-Lula sentiment.
"It’s a coup," Simon Zanardi of the Oil Workers Trade Union told CGTN. "Lula will be convicted because they know that if he runs for president, democracy will be restored in Brazil and workers will again be in power."
Brazil-based journalist Michael Fox told TeleSUR: "Lula’s defence and people on the left say this is the continuation of the coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff in 2016. They say this is the next step in trying to ensure that Lula can’t run or come back into power.
"The elite and big capital want to continue to rule the country and rollback Lula’s Workers' Party policies, and not just Workers' Party policies, but others going back decades."
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]