A regional court in Brazil, which had sentenced former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to 12 years in prison for corruption, rejected Monday the appeal request filed by his defense team leaving him one step away from prison as he awaits the ruling of the country’s Supreme Court on April 4.
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The three judges of the eighth chamber of the Federal Regional Court of Porto Alegre unanimously rejected the appeals filed by Lula's lawyers and thus opened the doors of the jail, however, he will not be arrested before the ruling by the country’s top court.
The Brazilian Supreme Court, sitting in the capital Brasilia, will decide whether losing the appeal at the lower court would automatically mean Lula's immediate arrest and incarceration, or if he would be given recourse to seek further legal action.
If the court rules in his favor it would grant him freedom until he exhausts all legal appeals. The Supreme court could then take the decision to imprison him which in Brazil’s case could take years and allow him to be free and reverse the ban on his candidacy for president.
Brazil's Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that defendants should begin serving prison sentences after their conviction was upheld on a first appeal. However, several members of the court are pressing to revisit that decision and perhaps reverse it.
The news comes as the former president concludes his campaign caravan tour across Brazil in a bid to garner support ahead of the country’s presidential elections in October in which he is the Workers Party candidate. Most polls in the country show Lula as the leading favorite for the presidency.
Lula was found guilty in July 2017 of receiving a luxury seaside apartment as a bribe from a Brazilian construction company in return for contracts with state oil giant Petrobras. He was sentenced to 9.5 years in jail, which, in a January appeal, was increased to 12 years and one month.