By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
BRASILIA, BRAZIL – On Tuesday, March 6th, a panel of five ministros (judges) of Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) unanimously rejected the preventive habeas corpus petition of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula).
The petition would have acted as an injunction, preventing the beleaguered ex-leader from being imprisoned while he exhausts all his appeals related to his January conviction for corruption and money laundering. Lula was sentenced to twelve years and one month in prison.
In rejecting Lula’s request for the imprisonment injunction, STJ Judge Félix Fischer concluded, “[T]here is no illegality for the petitioner [Lula] to begin the provisional execution of the sentence. I deny the writ of habeas corpus.”
Judge Jorge Mussi added that Lula’s petition was premature considering no arrest warrant had been issued. “Habeas corpus cannot be used to obstruct any illegalities or constraints that do not yet exist and it is not even known if they will occur or if they can be recognized,” said Judge Mussi.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Lula’s defense attorney, former president of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF), Sepúlveda Pertence, lamented the STJ’s decision.
“It was a unanimous result in which the court preferred to remain in the punitive position, in vogue in the country, and missed the opportunity to evolve and give the right of the constitutional guarantee of the presumption of innocence its due value.”
Pertence indicated he will meet with Lula to discuss what steps the former leader should take next. Lula can still appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the STF.
In July 2017, Lula was convicted by Judge Sérgio Moro of money laundering and corruption stemming from a beachfront triplex apartment in Guarujá, São Paulo. He was sentenced to prison for nine years and six months.
Lula appealed that decision to the Federal Regional Court (TRF) of Porto Alegre. In January, the TRF not only upheld the original conviction, they raised Lula’s sentence to twelve years and one month.
Despite prison looming ever closer for the former president, after Tuesday’s decision, he still remains the front-runner for the upcoming presidential election.
The latest joint survey from the Confederação Nacional de Transportes (National Confederation of Transportation) and the MDA Institute, released on Tuesday, shows Lula with 33 percent of voting intentions, well ahead of Jair Bolsonaro, with seventeen percent.