Lula Da Silva: Brazil’s Ex-President Surrenders To Authorities, To Begin 12 Years Prison Sentence.
Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva turned himself in to police on Saturday, leaving the steel workers union offices where he had sought refuge while defying a court deadline to submit to custody.
Lula was surrounded by hundreds of die-hard supporters, including leaders of his Workers Party, union workers and activists, in the industrial suburb of Sao Paulo where his political career began as a union official.
He will be taken by police to a jail cell in the southern city of Curitiba, where he will begin serving his 12-year sentence.
Just hours earlier, Lula told thousands of supporters that he would turn himself in to police, but also maintained his innocence and argued his corruption conviction was simply a way for enemies to make sure he does not run – and possibly win – re-election in October.
“I will comply with the order; 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 had said while addressing his supporters on why he had to surrender.
When he first tried to leave to turn himself in, however, dozens of supporters blocked a gate where a car carrying Lula was trying to exit.
“Surround, surround (the building) and don’t let them arrest him,” chanted supporters. After a few minutes of tense words between guards and supporters, the former president got out of the car and entered the metal workers union headquarters where he had been holed up.
Lula was convicted of taking bribes from an engineering firm in return for help in landing public contracts.
A Brazilian supreme court justice on Saturday rejected the latest plea by his legal team, which argued that Lula had not exhausted procedural appeals when a judge issued the order to turn himself in.
Born in the hardscrabble northeast, Lula rose through the ranks of the union in the country’s industrial south. In 1980, during the military dictatorship, he was arrested in Sao Bernardo do Campo for organizing strikes. He would spend more than a month in jail.
After running for president several times, in 2002 Lula finally won. He governed from 2003 to 2010, leaving office an international celebrity and with approval ratings in the high 80s.
Former US president Barack Obama once called Lula the “most popular politician on Earth”.