April 9, 2018 / 5:09 PM / 5 months ago

Brazil top court justice asked to issue injunction to free Lula

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian association of criminal lawyers requested on Monday that a Supreme Court justice issue an injunction that would free former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who began serving a 12-year sentence for bribery over the weekend.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a protest in front of the metallurgic trade union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Leonardo Benassatto

The request from the association was filed to Justice Marco Aurelio Mello and asked that he free anyone who is in jail, but has not yet had their case heard by Brazil’s top appeals court, which is the situation with Lula.

If Mello accepts the request and issues an injunction, Lula would be freed, though his decision would be temporary and have to be taken up by the full Supreme Court.

Mello’s office declined to comment on the matter.

Any possible action by the top court is the quickest manner in which the former president could be freed.

Lula was found guilty in August of accepting bribes worth 3.7 million reais ($1 million) from engineering firm OAS, the amount of money prosecutors said OAS spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help winning contracts with state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Lula’s lawyer Cristiano Zanin told Reuters on Monday that the defence “will use all legal means to reverse (his) illegal imprisonment.”

Zanin declined to go into detail as to what immediate action Lula’s legal team would take to try to free him from the jail cell in a federal police building in southern Brazil where he is being held.

In a video posted on Lula’s official Facebook page on Sunday, Zanin said that he had seen Lula and that “he is doing well, though indignant with the situation.”

The request on Monday for an injunction that would free Lula comes amid expectations that Mello may use a technical manoeuvre during the high court’s session this Wednesday to force the justices to re-examine their own 2016 ruling that said the condemned could begin serving prison sentences if their conviction was upheld on a first appeal. That decision is what allowed Lula to be jailed.

Mello is one of several justices who have publicly clamoured to revisit that ruling and overturn it. Critics have said that would be a blow against Brazil’s unprecedented anti-corruption efforts of the last four years.

The appeals process can take years or even decades in Brazil’s complex and backlogged legal system, guaranteeing impunity for those rich enough to afford lawyers who could launch countless technical appeals.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; writing by Brad Brooks, editing by G Crosse

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