Brazil: Lula sentenced again for corruption

The cleaver of justice fell again on former President Lula, a historic figure of the Brazilian left in prison since last year and sentenced Wednesday to a second sentence of more than 12 years of detention for corruption .

Both convictions were handed down in the sprawling "Wash Express" investigation, which uncovered a vast network of systematic tampering with public procurement by construction companies that greased the paws of politicians of all kinds.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has always claimed her innocence, but Judge Gabrielle Hard sentenced him to 12 years and 11 months' imprisonment for corruption and money laundering.

This sentence is in addition to another 12 years and a month he is serving since April in Curitiba (south), for another case related to "Express wash".

A specialist in criminal law confirmed to AFP that these two penalties were cumulative, from the moment they do not total 30 years of imprisonment, the maximum in Brazil.

The new sentence concerns renovations financed by two construction groups on behalf of the former president on a rural property in Atibaia, in the state of Sao Paulo (south-east).

This work was reportedly done in exchange for contracts with the state oil group Petrobras. According to the investigators, the amount of this renovation amounts to more than one million reais (about 237,000 euros).

- Replacement of Judge Moro -

The former president (2003-2010) has always refuted these accusations, assuring that the Atibaia farm did not belong to him and that it was registered in the name of one of his relatives, Fernando Bittar.

This version did not convince Judge Gabriela Hardt.

"It is a fact that the family of the ex-president Lula frequented this farm in a diligent way, as if it were the owner." In 2014, Fernando Bittar affirmed that his family did not frequent it with the same diligence, and that it was used more by Lula's family, "said the magistrate.

"The accused has received undue advantages because of his function as President of the Republic, which is required exemplary behavior," she added.

Gabriela Hardt took over the "Express wash" cases at the end of last year, after the emblematic judge Sergio Moro - Lula's pet peeve - was appointed Minister of Justice of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro .

In July 2017, it was Sergio Moro who sentenced Lula in first instance, to nine years and six months of imprisonment, a sentence increased on appeal, in January 2018, to 12 years and a month.

This first case involved a beachfront apartment that Lula allegedly received as a bribe from the OAS construction group, also in exchange for favors for obtaining public contracts related to Petrobras.

- "Persecution" -

Also implicated in half a dozen other cases, Lula claims to be the victim of a plot to prevent him from returning to power.

He has long been the favorite of the presidential election last October, before being declared ineligible a month before, leaving the way for an election of the far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro.

He had wished that Lula "rot in prison". On Wednesday, he quickly tweeted, without comment, the announcement of the new condemnation of the former president.

Gleisi Hoffmann, president of the Workers' Party (PT), founded by the former president of the left in the 1980s, said on Twitter that "Lula persecution continues".

"In the memory of the people, he will always be bigger than his tormentors," she added.

Lula was almost released from prison in December, following a decision by a Supreme Court judge who had opted for the release of anyone convicted on appeal until his appeals to superior courts been tried.

But this decision was eventually overturned by the President of the Supreme Court, Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli.

This same judge allowed Lula out of prison a week ago to attend the funeral of his brother, but too late: it had already been buried.

"They did not let me say goodbye to Vava out of sheer malice, I can just stay here and cry," the former president had reacted.

Source: Seychelles News Agency