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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A federal judge in Brasilia ordered on Tuesday the suspension of all activities at the Lula Institute, a NGO established by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after he left office.

Brazil, São Paulo,Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's institute has been ordered to halt activities,
Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s institute has been ordered to halt activities, photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.

According to judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite, although the institute develops social projects, it may have been used as an instrument or meeting place for the commission of various crimes.

“There is abundant evidence that it was a place with great influence on the country’s political scene and that possible (illicit) negotiations which began there are today under investigation,” wrote the judge in his legal excerpt.

The former president is accused, along with six others, of trying to obstruct the investigations of Operação Lava Jato (Carwash Operation).

The magistrate pointed out that the former president himself said, in earlier testimonies that the place was used as a place of discussion on various subjects.

“Since the accused himself mentioned that several issues were discussed at the location, and there are several testimonies that imply possible behavior deviations that violate the law, prudence and caution recommend the halt of its (institution’s) activities,” determined Judge Soares Leite .

The institute vehemently denies any misconduct.

“The Lula Institute is not a place of wrongdoing, and the former president has always acted within the law, having no criminal convictions. The Institute promoted debates, events and reflections on public policies,” stated the note released on Tuesday by the institution.

The decision comes a day before Lula is to testify for the first time before Judge Sergio Moro on accusations that he peddled his influence with government officials for personal benefits.

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