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Brazil: Former President Inacio’s Jail Sentence Extended

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A Brazilian appeals court on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, not only upheld former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s conviction for corruption, it also extended the sentence by about three years.

The verdict dealt a body blow to Lula’s  hopes of running for re-election in August this year.

The three-judge panel sitting in the southern city of Porto Alegre unanimously ruled that his original 9.5-year jail sentence is extended to more than 12 years.

One of the judges, Joao Gebran Neto, said that during his 2003-2010 presidency, Lula was one of the architects “of a sophisticated scheme of fraud and corruption” that had weakened Brazil’s entire political system.

A defiant Lula, 72, said before the judge he would continue to fight “for the dignity of the Brazilian people” and insisted he had committed no crime.

Lula is likely to remain out of prison for many months. He is expected to continue to challenge the conviction through higher courts, initially in the Superior Court of Justice and ultimately in Brazil’s Supreme Court.

However, Wednesday’s ruling deals a severe blow to his hopes of running in this year’s presidential election, which he was favored to win.

The deadline for registration of candidates is August 15, 2018, The Workers’ Party has until September 17 to replace Lula as their candidate, if necessary — three weeks before the first round of the election on October 7, 2018.

The court convened amid high security in the tense southern city of Porto Alegre to rule on Lula’s appeal against his July conviction in Brazil’s sprawling “Car Wash” graft scandal, with thousands of supporters and opponents of the leftist icon gathered to await the ruling.

As the judges presented their verdicts, Lula was hundreds of kilometers (miles) away near Sao Paulo, addressing former colleagues in the powerful metalworkers’ union he once led.

“I am extremely calm, with the awareness that I have committed no crime,” he told union members.

The key allegation against him is that he was gifted a three-floor seaside apartment from Brazil’s OAS construction group in exchange for public contracts from state-controlled oil company Petrobras during his two-term presidency.

Cristiano Zanin Martins, Defense lawyer had told the court it was clear OAS owned the renovated apartment, and that Lula “never got the keys and never spent a night there.”

But in his judgment, Gebran Neto said there was evidence “that the triplex apartment, from the beginning, even before the OAS took over the works, was reserved for President Lula.”

The defense had argued that no title existed in his name, but the judge said the lack of a document was intended precisely to hide the real recipient of the apartment.

 A second judge, Leandro Paulsen, agreed with that understanding but considered an aggravating circumstance the fact that Lula had operated as guarantor “of a scheme that emptied the coffers of Petrobras.”
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