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  • Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a rally outside the petrochemical complex known as Comperj in Itaborai, Brazil Dec. 7, 2017.

    Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a rally outside the petrochemical complex known as Comperj in Itaborai, Brazil Dec. 7, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 February 2018

"Only with great imagination" could one conclude that Lula was planning to flee the country, the ruling read.

A Brazilian judge ordered Friday that the passport of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva be returned to him, striking an earlier ruling by a lower court, arguing that there was no evidence that the country’s most popular politician intended to feel Brazil to evade legal proceedings.

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Despite Trial, Lula Still Tops Brazil's Presidential Poll

Last week a lower court judge had ordered Lula to surrender his passport on fears that he would seek asylum abroad. The document was handed over on Jan. 26 just hours before Lula was to board a flight to Ethiopia for a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conference.

"There is no way to conclude that [Lula] was planning to flee the country" in order to avoid Brazilian law, Judge Bruno Apolinario wrote in the Friday ruling.

On the contrary, Apolinario wrote, Lula, who is appealing his conviction, clearly showed that the trip "was justified by a previously scheduled professional commitment."

"Only with great imagination" could one conclude that Lula was planning to flee the country, the ruling read.

Apolinario's ruling "corrects" the lower court order that violated constitutional guarantees for freedom of movement "improperly imposed" on the ex-president, said Lula's lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins.

Also Friday, Lula's legal team presented a motion to the country's supreme court to ensure that the left-wing ex-president is not detained, after a lower court rejected a similar appeal earlier in the week.

Lula, who still has a passionate following among Brazilians who remember strides in reducing poverty during his 2003-2010 presidency, retains a strong lead in the polls ahead of presidential elections in October despite his graft conviction.

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