World News

Brazil's ex-president defies order to surrender to federal police

Posted April 6, 2018 4:36 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2018 5:04 a.m. EDT

— Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva failed to turn himself in to federal authorities Friday, when he was supposed to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.

Lula da Silva will remain at the headquarters of the country's metalworkers union building Saturday, where he's been holed up, said Lindbergh Farias, a senator for Workers' Party.

Farias said Lula will stay in the building and celebrate mass Saturday in memory of his deceased wife, Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva, on what would have been her 67th birthday.

An arrest warrant required Lula da Silva, 72, to surrender to police by 5 p.m. local time Friday in the southern city of Curitiba. Instead, he remains at the building in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo in Sao Paulo state, some 260 miles away.

Large crowds of Lula supporters have gathered there to protest in support of him.

On Thursday, a federal judge ordered Lula da Silva's arrest after the country's Supreme Court ruled that he must start serving the 12 years.

Shortly before Friday's deadline, Brazil's Superior Court of Justice, the nation's highest appellate court, rejected a habeas corpus request to delay the prison time.

Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011, had been considered a frontrunner in elections due in October. But the court's decision not to grant his request to remain free while appealing the conviction has cast doubt on his bid to regain power.

In late January, an appeals court unanimously upheld the corruption and money laundering charges against him, and he was handed the prison sentence. Lula da Silva was initially found guilty of the charges in July 2017.

Lula da Silva strongly denied any wrongdoing. His defense said he was a victim of political persecution.

His conviction stemmed from a wide-ranging corruption investigation into the state-run oil company Petrobras, dubbed "Operation Car Wash." The accusations against him emerged after he left office in 2011.

Lula da Silva was accused of benefiting from the renovation of a triplex in a beach town near Sao Paulo by the construction company OAS. The charges were connected to 3.7 million reais' ($1.1 million) worth of bribes received from OAS through the beachfront apartment. In return, Lula da Silva helped the builder acquire contracts from the oil company, prosecutors charged.

Universally known as Lula, Lula da Silva is a founding member of Brazil's only socialist political party, Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Workers' Party.

He won two terms as president, serving from October 2002 until January 2011. He was friends with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who supported his political career, and attended Castro's funeral last December.

He left office with a 90% approval rating but was questioned by police about the corruption allegations in March 2016.

Lula da Silva's wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, and six others also were charged. She died in February 2017.