The popular leader was released from prison pending appeals and was met with cheering crowds.
In a speech to the crowd, Lula thanked party militants who had camped outside throughout his imprisonment, and attacked the “rotten side” of the police, prosecutors, tax office and justice system for jailing him.
“They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea,” he said. “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber – they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.”
Lula was imprisoned in April 2018 after a sentence for corruption and money laundering handed down by the controversial judge Sergio Moro was upheld by an appeal court. He has always proclaimed his innocence and argued the case against him was politically motivated.
On Thursday, Brazil’s supreme court ruled defendants could only be imprisoned after all appeals to higher courts had been exhausted, paving the way for Lula and another 5,000 prisoners to be freed.
The decision followed revelations on investigative website the Intercept Brasil that Moro had colluded with prosecutors leading the sweeping corruption investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, into bribes and kickbacks at the state oil company Petrobras that imprisoned Lula, powerful business leaders, middlemen and politicians from his Workers’ party and its political allies.
Polls had showed Lula was leading in last year’s presidential election, but the conviction removed him from the race, giving Bolsonaro a clear run.
Bolsonaro then named Moro his justice minister, heightening the sense of injustice. The president appeared to recognize the former judge’s contribution in a speech on Friday. “If he hadn’t accomplished his mission, I wouldn’t be here either,” Bolsonaro said.
As president from 2003 to 2010, Lula presided over an extraordinary period of economic growth and reduction of inequality as innovative cash transfer schemes took tens of millions out of poverty. Even in prison he has cast a long shadow over Brazilian politics – and his release is only likely to widen bitter political divides.
Lula’s imprisonment was preceded by the impeachment and removal from office of his successor Dilma Rouseff also of the Worker’s Party and her being replaced by a pro-business right-winger, and then setting in motion the corruption charges that led to Lula being removed from the race which he had been expected to win easily. The investigation into Lula’s bribery charge was led by Moro, the same person who then presided over his hearing and passed the verdict of imprisonment. It was a quasi-legal coup that paved the way for Bolsonaro to become president.
Bernie Sanders has welcomed Lula’s release and clearly he and Lula share progressive views.
Thank you for your solidarity, you have always been my candidate for the US presidency and I hope democrats have the wisdom to nominate a candidate with your worldview. I hope American workers will make you US president. https://t.co/6qFf5DKQY5
— Lula (@LulaOficial) November 8, 2019
Here is Lula giving a speech to thousands of people after his release.
There is a Netflix documentary The Edge of Democracy (2019) that shows the whole process by which the right-wingers removed Rousseff, imprisoned Lula, and captured power in Brazil. Here’s the trailer.
When I was watching the film with English subtitles, for some reason it did not translate the narrator’s voiceovers, only the voices of those speaking in the film. I had to turn on the closed captioning to get the translations of the narrator.