Tuesday’s appeals are being heard by five members of the court. They could decide to free Lula within hours or to keep him imprisoned until the full court can weigh the appeals.
Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider two serperate appeals by imprisoned former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is seeking release, alleging that the judge behind his conviction was not impartial.
Lula, Brazil’s famous leftist leader from 2003-2010, left office with an 87 percent approval rating. But the Workers Party he founded fell hard when Brazilian prosecutors in 2014 began the “Car Wash” corruption investigation and other, unprecedented moves against the impunity of Brazil's affluent and powerful traditionally enjoyed.
Five members of the court weighed in on Lula's appeals Tuesday afternoon. Witnesses say his freedom or continued inprisonment could be determined in the next few hours.
Lula was convicted in July 2017 in the first of at least eight corruption trials he faces. He was jailed in April 2018 and remains in prison. He has since been convicted in a second graft trial.
The first conviction blocked Lula, a leftist icon who remains one of Brazil’s most influential politicians, from running for the presidency last year. Even after he was jailed, polls showed that he would have easily been elected over far-right rival and current president, Jair Bolsonaro.
The judge who convicted Lula, Sergio Moro, now serves as Bolsonaro’s justice minister. In recent weeks, he has come under pressure to resign after the news outlet, Intercept Brasil, published the first of what it says will be months’ of stories based on leaked private messages between Moro and prosecutors.
Those messages raise doubts about Moro’s impartiality as he presided over Lula’s trial. The messages showed him coaching prosecutors on the timing of raids and arrests, asking them to publish press releases to criticize Lula’s defense and sending investigative tips while he was legally obliged to remain impartial.
Moro at first said the leaked messages showed no wrongdoing. As The Intercept published more stories, he changed tactics to say he could not verify if the notes were authentic and that he could not recall whether he had sent them.
Lula’s lawyers have for years maintained that Moro was acting out of a desire to block Lula and the Workers Party from returning to the presidency. They have repeatedly appealed to the Supreme Court, but all requests have been denied.