Brazil’s Workers Party petitions for Lula’s immediate release


Brazil’s center-left opposition Workers Party (PT) said Wednesday it has filed a petition for the immediate release from prison of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva .

The petition was filed after a unilateral decision earlier in the day by Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello, who ruled that individuals who have had one appeal of their convictions upheld can be eligible for release until they exhaust all appeals.

The ruling, however, states that it does not apply to all prisoners who fit that criteria and that judges must assess each inmate on a case-by-case basis.

Mello’s decision came on the Supreme Court’s final day of work before its end-of-the-year recess, meaning that between now and February only Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli can overturn the ruling.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the PT’s chairwoman, Gleisi Hoffmann, said the party was pleased with a ruling it considers important for Brazil’s legal process and constitutional rights.

“That’s why we’ve taken all corresponding legal measures to ensure the release of the ex-president,” she said, adding that the Supreme Court cannot wait until year’s end before “announcing a decision on such an important matter.”

Lula’s attorney, Cristiano Zanin, filed the petition in the southern city of Curitiba, where Lula is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Lula - who governed from 2003 to 2010 and remains Brazil’s most popular politician - was convicted last year of having accepted bribes from a construction company in the form of renovations to a seaside condo that the former president never owned or occupied.

The conviction was upheld on appeal and Lula has been behind bars since April, which led to his being barred from the presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.

The case against Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, was based largely on plea-bargained testimony from people already convicted of corruption offenses.

Lula, who faces several other trials for alleged corruption, can still appeal his conviction to the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), Brazil’s highest federal appellate court for non-constitutional questions of law, and the Supreme Court (STF), Brazil’s highest court for constitutional matters.