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Lula, without a crime, nor proofs, nor ‘habeas corpus’

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In the past few days the Brazilian right had fallen into a state of desperation. After imposing through the political agenda the possibility of sending (ex president) Lula to prison, and having taken for granted a decision (to reject the habeus corpus) that they believed certain in the Supreme Federal Tribunal (SFT) of Brazil, their dreams had begun to fall apart. A preliminary count of the votes of the tribunal appeared to favour Lula, following a failure of the consensus of Curitiba that had been imposed up to that time. It was a legally absurd consensus for a condemnation without a crime nor proofs. It was clearly a political persecution, based on lawfare–the unilateral use of laws to persecute political adversaries. No one has any doubts that judge Sergio Moro is a ferocious political adversary of Lula, who has denied him any kind of recourse, who treats him in a racist and discriminatory manner, who frequents, as among friends, festivities with leaders of rightwing parties, none of whom have been accused by the judge and his colleagues.


The climate was of great expectations. A rightwing weekly journal warned that if Lula received the habeas corpus the Lava Jato corruption case would end, confessing that this anti-corruption operation depended on a violation of the Constitution that expressly says that prison for an accused person can only be imposed once all the recourses are concluded. It so happens that the SFT itself, involved in the climate of arbitrariness that Lava Jata had imposed on the country, had decided, in various cases, to impose prison before all recourses had been employed. But, breaking with this practice, it had anticipated that, in the case of Lula, they would return to applying the Constitutional precept of conceding the habeas corpus.


In the days before Wednesday’s session, the media had employed all their resources to create a climate of pressure on the SFT, from reporting on the mobilization of dozens of persons as though they were thousands, to publishing editorials demanding prison for Lula. It became clear that only through the courts could they prevent Lula from again becoming the President of Brazil.


As a new element, officials of the Armed Forces came out to openly express their position in favour prison for Lula. Even the commander in Chief of the Army joined the chorus, saying that his institution would not accept Justice being tolerant with corruption. This represents a re-politicization of the Armed Forces, which had been given an amnesty, at the end of the dictatorship (1985), that constituted precisely the total tolerance of all the crimes that the military had committed in the 20 years of the dictatorship. “Intolerance with corruption” should mean cancelation of that amnesty and bringing to judgment all the crimes of the dictatorship. But now it is just a phrase that is added to the political persecution of Lula and nothing more.


The negative reactions came from several sides, even from the Globo media network. In an editorial, this media outlet criticised the commander in Chief of the Air Force and other sectors of public opinion for accepting the impunity of rightwing politicians, such as Michel Temer and Aecio Neves, among others, while they suddenly showed preoccupation in the case of Lula,


There is a renewed climate of tension in the whole of Brazil, incited by the media, in particular by the Globo network, that acted as if they were on the verge of the coup of 1964. They closed their principal news program with the threat of the putchist commander in Chief of the Army–before saying the contrary the following day.


It was in this climate that the SFT convened again. The vote of Edson Fachin–who was a former lawyer of the MST (landless worker’s movement) and received the support of the movement for his designation–was against the habeas corpus and that of Gilmar Mendes, in favour–. Everything was taking place normally until the decisive vote of judge Rosa Weber, on whom the pressures of the right had fallen most strongly. They came even from Sergio Moro himself, who was not just content to speak in public the whole time–which is prohibited by law–but participated in a long rightwing TV interview programme where he focused his speech against that judge.


The effect ended up being decisive. She changed the position that she had held in the previous session. She voted against the habeas corpus, which allowed the voting to end with a tie. At that point, the president of the SFT, Carmen Lucia, a militant against Lula, broke the tie and thus the habeas corpus for Lula was rejected.


There are still possible recourses and, even if they are rejected, as is to be expected, the political decision rests in the hands of Sergio Moro, to define if he sends Lula to prison. This would produce an immense commotion, as he is the only national political leader in Brazil, having 40 per cent of support in the surveys with the perspective of winning in the first round and enormous popular support, as his caravans have confirmed throughout the country.[1]


This was a fantastic juridical farce, involving an apartment that never belonged to Lula[2], and that has just gone to auction, with the sales revenue being collected by the company that is the real owner of the property. This means an absurd process was generated, without evidence, with a condemnation based on the “conviction” (of his guilt) of those who accuse him as a political enemy.


An even more turbulent period in the political life of Brazil will come about if Lula is imprisoned. They might not dare to do this, but they maintain what is most important for the Brazilian right: to try to prevent Lula from being a presidential candidate of the country.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


-Emir Sader, Brazilian sociologist and political scientist, is the Coordinator of the Laboratory of Public Policy of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).




[1] TN: In fact, only a few hours after the SFT pronounced their sentence, judge Sergio Mora ordered Lula’s imprisonment, giving a deadline on Friday 6th to hand himself in.  Lula has remained in his former trade union base in Sao Paulo where he is surrounded by huge crowds of supporters who reject the imprisonment as illegitimate.

[2] TN: Lula is accused of receiving the apartment as a bribe.  There is no proof it was ever his or that he ever used it.



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