April 16, 2018 / 3:55 PM / a year ago

Brazil homeless group occupies apartment that landed Lula in jail

Members of Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) shout slogans as they leave the beachside apartment "Solaris" in Guaruja, Brazil April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

GUARUJÁ, Brazil (Reuters) - Supporters of jailed former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for a short time on Monday occupied the three-floor beach apartment that the leftist leader was convicted of receiving as a bribe, a crime that earned him a 12-year prison sentence.

“If its Lula’s, then the people can stay here. If it isn’t, why is he in jail?” said a banner hung by the occupiers from a balcony.

The occupation, which ended without incident after several hours, was mounted by the Homeless Workers Movement, known as MTST, which along with Lula’s Workers Party and other social groups has been leading protests against his imprisonment.

Lula, 72, has repeatedly denied ever owning the luxury apartment. Prosecutors said its renovation at a cost of 3.7 million reais ($1.1 million) was a bribe from engineering company OAS SA in return for help securing contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras.

Lula governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, a time of strong economic growth and falling poverty, and he is still Brazil’s most influential politician. He turned himself in to police custody on April 6.

His conviction bars him from running in the October presidential election, in which he is the front-runner. His support among voters has slipped since he was jailed.

A decision pending before the Supreme Court could free him and deal the harshest blow yet to Brazil’s battle against corruption, prosecutors and judges say.

But even if he is released, electoral authorities are still expected to declare him ineligible to be a candidate.

($1 = 3.41 reais)

Reporting by Paulo Whitaker and Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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