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Brazil's Lula to Go Back to Jail or Run for President

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures after being released from prison, in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, Nov. 9, 2019.
Brazil's Lula to Go Back to Jail or Run for President
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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walked out of jail last week.

The Brazilian politician known as Lula was released after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that a person can be put in prison only after all appeals have been tried.

Now, Lula could either return to prison or campaign to again become president.

Current president Jair Bolsonaro is unpopular. But, Lula’s newly found freedom may increase political tension in South America’s biggest country.

Also, a group of Supreme Court justices will soon hear an appeal from Lula's defense lawyers. The lawyers say that the judge who ruled on the corruption charges against Lula did not act fairly. Judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to jail after finding him guilty in the corruption investigation known as “Operation Car Wash.”

Seventy-four-year-old Lula had been in prison for 19 months of a nearly nine-year sentence. He is also facing several other corruption charges.

If the Supreme Court justices overturn Lula’s several convictions, he will be permitted to run for office. He might run as the Workers' Party candidate in the 2022 presidential election.

However, if he loses the appeal on any one of his other corruption charges, he could return to prison.

Following last week's Supreme Court ruling, lawmakers have said they want a constitutional amendment requiring jail time for a person who loses their first appeal.

Both the Lower house and Senate are examining constitutional amendments on this subject. However, nothing is likely to happen this year because constitutional amendments take longer to pass than normal bills.

The charge that Moro ruled unfairly against Lula had been stalled since December of 2018. At that time, Supreme Court Justices Edson Fachin and Carmen Lucia took a stand against it. Justice Gilmar Mendes requested another look at the case. He spoke with Reuters in August.

"Annuling (Lula's) conviction…as a result of (Moro's role), will lead to a new trial. That could happen," Mendes said. “The right verdict is not just a guilty verdict. This is not correct. We have to recognize that we owe Lula a fair trial."

Many Brazilians who voted for Bolsonaro in 2018 support Operation Car Wash. The wide-reaching corruption investigation started in 2014. It has found wrongdoing in several South American countries and has put Lula and other Brazilian politicians in jail.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

conviction –n. the act of proving that a person is guilty of a crime in a court of law

verdict –n. the decision of a jury in a trial or similar judgement

stall – v. to hold up, to prevent something from moving forward

annul – v. to overturn a decision