Appeals court judges in Brazil on Monday unanimously upheld an earlier decision to reject ex-Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s appeal against a conviction on corruption charges.
The three judges at the lower appeals court in Porto Alegre unanimously rejected a final procedural objection raised by lawyers of the former leftist president to the initial motion, meaning the conviction stands.
The law states that Lula should be barred from running for office, despite leading early polls ahead of the October 7 election.
Under Brazilian law, once all motions related to the first appeal are exhausted, the defendant can be ordered to start serving his sentence.
But Lula has already filed a pre-emptive habeas corpus petition with the Supreme Federal Tribunal and cannot be jailed until justices rule on it, which they are scheduled to do on April 4.
The former president was convicted in 2017 of trading political favors with construction company OAS in return for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The construction company was seeking contracts with state-controlled oil giant Petrobras.
He also faces six other corruption trials.
The conviction was upheld by a group of federal magistrates in January and his prison sentence was raised to 12 years and one month.
The lawyer for the two-term former president said he will appeal the result. Cristiano Zanin Martins said he would wait to read the full text of the decision before deciding what kind of appeal they would make next, and called the conviction “illegal.”
Reports suggest Lula could start a prolonged court battle, leaving the ex-president temporarily free to campaign for the October election.
Lula’s defense still has one more motion it can file with the same court. He could be allowed to continue to appeal his conviction to higher courts while serving his sentence and then also to run in the election.
On Monday, Lula told several thousand people at a rally in Francisco Beltrão in Paraná state that the charges against him were trumped up and designed to keep him from regaining the presidency.
“I don’t have to prove my innocence,” he said. “They are the ones who have to prove my guilt!”
If barred from standing in the vote, Lula has said he would endorse a Workers’ Party replacement at the last minute, according to media reports.
His main rival is far-right former army officer Jair Bolsonaro, who is running on an anti-corruption campaign.