Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was flown on Saturday evening to the prison in the southern city of Curitiba where he is due to serve his 12-year sentence for corruption
The former two-term president landed in a police helicopter on the roof of federal police headquarters in Curitiba, where Brazil’s anti-graft “Car Wash” investigation is based.
Demonstrators outside let off fireworks and riot police fired tear gas as Lula was taken into the prison. Eight people were lightly injured, including one hit by a rubber bullet, the fire department said.
Lula handed himself over to police custody earlier on Saturday, following a tense standoff between his supporters and the authorities.
Several thousand Workers’ Party supporters and other activists had set up a human cordon around the union building where Lula was holed up, refusing to hand him over to police after he lost his most recent appeal.
The metalworkers’ union headquarters in the southern city of São Bernardo do Campo, in the Greater São Paulo, has been the focus of supporters’ attempts to keep Lula out of prison since a judge issued his arrest warrant on corruption charges on Thursday.
When he stepped out to attend a street religious celebration on Saturday morning, the crowd chanted: “Free Lula, free Lula!”
He has declared his innocence on charges of bribe-taking.
Lula is still Brazil’s most popular former leader, and had been the front-runner for October’s presidential elections.
There were also reports of fireworks and cheering in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities from people who consider Lula responsible for opening the doors to much of the corruption in Brazilian politics.
Lula — who was president from 2003 to 2010 — was convicted in July of corruption and money laundering in connection with the renovation of a beachside penthouse he was planning to buy.
The renovation was bankrolled by a company seeking contracts with the state oil giant Petrobras.
He faces a jail term of 12 years and one month.
Lula’s several requests to stay out of jail until he had exhausted all appeals against his corruption conviction were rejected.
The electoral court is widely expected to bar Lula from contesting the upcoming elections.
Earlier, Lula had addressed his supporters for almost an hour, telling them he was “ready” to obey the law and to accept his prison term. In his 55-minute-long speech, which was broadcast live on television, Lula continued to maintain his innocence.
“The police and ‘Car Wash’ investigators lied. The prosecutors lied,” said da Silva. “I don’t forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief.”
Announcing his decision to surrender, the politician noted that he will go behind bars so that he can “face them eye-to-eye.”
“The more days they leave me (in jail), the more Lulas will be born in this country,” he added, to a crowd clearly disappointed with his decision.
“Free Lula!” they chanted, before his supporters carried him on their shoulders back into the union building.
Clashes between police and the former president’s supporters erupted outside the building is being jailed. Officers used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators.
Later, at least nine people, including one child and a military police officer, were injured in the clashes, Brazil’s Globo TV reported. Others were demonstrators who opposed Lula’s arrest. Some of them were injured by rubber bullets when the protest turned violent, according to the broadcaster.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Lula has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and declared himself a victim of political persecution. Speaking to Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, Lula argued that corruption charges have become an “instrument in the moral and ethical fight against opponents.”
Lula said there was a massive media campaign against him and another former Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff. “There is a conspiracy in Brazil between the media, the judiciary, the prosecution service and police,” said Lula.
Arguing that it is in the best interest for his country to disentangle itself from the American influence, Lula said that a prosperous Brazil is not in Washington’s interests.
Lula’s legal defense team was negotiating Saturday the terms under which he would surrender himself to federal police.
The negotiations took place as Lula was attending a ceremony for the 68th birthday of his late wife, Marisa Leticia, on the grounds of the ABC Steelworkers Union headquarters in São Bernardo do Campo, where he has holed up since the arrest warrant was issued.
Earlier in the day, Gleisi Hoffman, president of the Workers’ Party, said Lula will “will remain with political supporters” at the ABC Steelworkers Union headquarters and that “he exercised the option” not to present himself to the federal police in Curitiba.
“I want to make it clear that there hasn’t been non-compliance in respect to the arrest warrant issued by judge Sergio Moro on the part of Lula.”
Later Saturday the Supreme Court rejected a new habeas corpus submitted by Lula’s attorneys, in which they argued that he still had legal and other matters to pursue that contest his corruption conviction by Brazil’s Fourth Regional Federal Court (TRF-4).
The defense team has also presented a precautionary appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee seeking to have them stop his detention until the judicial process is exhausted.
“It’s evident this situation is illegal and the defense will analyze and verify the possible measures because it’s not compatible with the law. It’s not compatible with the federal constitution, because the constitution prevents knowing the sentence ahead of the final and definitive guilty verdict, which does not exist in the case of President Lula,” said Lula’s defense lawyer Cristiano Zanin.