Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva addressed supporters on Saturday in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo State, after being released from the Federal Police Headquarters in Curitiba city, where he was a political prisoner for 580 days.
His public address was held at the headquarters of the Metal Workers Union of Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he had publicly appeared for the last time before surrendering to the Federal Police in April 2018.
As he walked out on Friday, the former President and leader of the Workers Party (PT) of Brazil reaffirmed what he said before being imprisoned: “They didn’t lock up a man, they tried to kill an idea.” After repeatedly thanking those who never stopped fighting for his freedom and expressing solidarity, Lula promised to travel around the country once again.
Popular movements from Brazil and Latin America welcomed Lula’s release, while demanding the annulment of the judicial process against him, which would allow him to exercise his political rights.
The release of the political leader was ordered by Federal Judge Danilo Pereira Junior, after a formal release request by Lula’s legal team. The request was filed after the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil upheld what is stated in the Brazilian Constitution: that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted.
Lula’s legal team still has to go through several steps, since his release does not overturn his conviction, nor does it allow him to exercise his political rights. The former President will still have to face the proceedings, but not from inside prison walls.
In July 2017, Lula was sentenced by then Judge Sergio Moro (now Justice Minister of the ultra right-wing administration of Jair Bolsonaro) to 9.5 years in prison on the charges of passive corruption and money laundering, through the “Lava Jato” case. In January 2018, his sentence was even extended to over 12 years by a Regional Federal Court of Porto Alegre city, Rio Grande do Sul state.
Moro alleged that Lula was the hidden owner of a triplex apartment in the municipality of Guarujá, Sao Paulo State, given by construction company OAS in exchange for being favored in contracts with state company Petrobras.
Lula’s legal team argued many times that the process must be nullified and that there was never evidence against the former President. This view is shared by a great number of legal experts from Brazil and other parts of the world. Several experts also state that Lula has been the victim of “lawfare”, i.e. the unlawful use of legal tools for political persecution ends.
Lula was imprisoned for 580 days at the Federal Police Headquarters in Curitiba, where social movements and organizations kept a close vigil. After being released, Lula spoke and thanked the activists. Day after day he listened to them, from prison, as they called out to him “good morning.”