Re­gional News Lula turns him­self in to Brazil po­lice, end­ing stand­off

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, Brazil (Reuters) - For­mer Brazil­ian President Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva turned him­self in to po­lice on Satur­day, end­ing a day-long stand­off to be­gin serv­ing a 12-year prison sen­tence for cor­rup­tion that de­rails his bid to re­turn to power.

Lula moved out in a con­voy of black po­lice SUVs af­ter push­ing his way out of the steel work­ers union head­quar­ters where he had taken refuge, as mil­i­tant sup­port­ers sought to stop him from sur­ren­der­ing to po­lice. He en­tered po­lice cus­tody more than 24 hours af­ter a court dead­line on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

In a fiery speech hours ear­lier to a crowd of red-shirted sup­port­ers of his Work­ers Party out­side the union build­ing, Brazil’s first work­ing class president in­sisted on his in­no­cence and called his bribery con­vic­tion a po­lit­i­cal crime, but said he would turn him­self in.

“I will com­ply with the or­der,” he told the cheer­ing crowd. “I’m not above the law. If I didn’t be­lieve in the law, I wouldn’t have started a po­lit­i­cal party. I would have started a revo­lu­tion.”

Lula’s im­pris­on­ment re­moves Brazil’s most in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal fig­ure and front-run­ner from this year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, throw­ing the race wide open and strength­en­ing the odds of a more cen­trist can­di­date pre­vail­ing, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts and po­lit­i­cal foes.

It also marks the end of an era for Brazil’s left, which was out in force in the streets out­side of the union head­quar­ters in the in­dus­trial sub­urb of Sao Paulo where Lula’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer be­gan four decades ago as a union or­ga­nizer.

The throngs of sup­port­ers, which be­gan gath­er­ing when he ar­rived late on Thurs­day night, (Miguel Sch­in­car­iol/AFP)

dis­suaded po­lice from try­ing to take him into cus­tody and height­ened con­cerns about a vi­o­lent show­down.

Sup­port­ers blocked Lula’s

first at­tempt to leave the union build­ing on Satur­day af­ter­noon, push­ing back against fel­low party mem­bers try­ing to open the gate for his car to leave. Work­ers Party chief Gleisi Hoff­mann pleaded with sup­port­ers to let him exit. He will be flown by po­lice to the southern city of Cu­ritiba and held in a spe­cial jail cell where he will be­gin serv­ing his 12-year sen­tence.

Lula was con­victed of tak­ing bribes, in­clud­ing ren­o­va­tion of a three-storey sea­side apart­ment that he de­nies ever own­ing, from an engi­neer­ing firm in re­turn for help land­ing public con­tracts.

“I’m the only per­son be­ing pros­e­cuted over an apart­ment that isn’t mine,” in­sisted Lula, stand­ing on a sound truck along­side his im­peached hand­picked suc­ces­sor Dilma Rouss­eff and lead­ers of other left-wing par­ties.

A Brazil­ian Supreme Court jus­tice on Satur­day re­jected the lat­est plea by Lula’s le­gal team, which ar­gued they had not ex­hausted pro­ce­dural ap­peals when a judge is­sued the or­der to turn him­self in.

Lula tells thou­sands of his sup­port­ers he is ready to sur­ren­der to the po­lice

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