Rio de Janeiro, Dec 7 (EFE).- Brazil’s Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday it would be unfeasible to retry a case that led to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s having spent just over 19 months in prison and asked for it to be definitively shelved.
In explaining its position, the AG’s office noted that for defendants over the age of 70 (Lula is now 76) the time limit for bringing legal action against them is reduced by half.
In the case in question, part of a sprawling corruption probe known as Lava Jato (Car Wash), Lula allegedly received a seaside condo in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo as a kickback for helping construction company OAS win lucrative contracts from Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.
The erstwhile head of state was charged in that case even though he never owned or occupied the residence.
Lula, a towering figure in Brazilian politics who led the country from 2003 to 2010, served a year and seven months of a 12-year sentence after being convicted in that case in 2017.
And because it was upheld on appeal in January 2018, he was barred from competing in that year’s presidential election amid polls showing he would have won in a landslide.
The ex-president also was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison in another corruption case and was awaiting two pending judgments, although a Supreme Court justice in March of this year annulled all four cases on the grounds that the court of first instance in the southern city of Curitiba, presided over by then-Judge Sergio Moro, lacked jurisdiction.
The full Supreme Court upheld that ruling in April, thereby restoring Lula’s political rights and leaving the decision on whether to retry the cases in the hands of a federal court in Brasilia.
After spending 580 days in a police building in Curitiba, Lula was freed on Nov. 8, 2019, based on a Supreme Court ruling that allows defendants to remain free while they still have appeals pending.
That decision reversed a ruling the year before, when the high court found that criminal defendants could be ordered to start serving their prison sentence after the first appeals court upheld their conviction.
Lula was released five months after Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his then-colleagues at The Intercept Brasil – that country’s version of American non-profit news organization The Intercept – published a series of articles based on leaked conversations that revealed that Moro was deeply involved in shaping the prosecutors’ strategy in a corruption case against former president.
Prosecutors did not dispute the authenticity of the material, which showed, in the words of The Intercept, “that Moro secretly and unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula despite serious internal doubts about the evidence supporting the accusations, only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator.”
Lula is widely expected to challenge right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election, although the founder and leader of the center-left Workers Party (PT) has yet to throw his hat into the ring.
Polls show Lula leading Bolsonaro by double digits due in large part to the current head of state’s sky-high disapproval ratings.
The Bolsonaro administration has come under fire from across the political spectrum for its handling of Covid-19, which has claimed more than 600,000 lives in Brazil, a death toll second only to that of the United States. EFE