As one of the country’s most popular politicians and a top contender to win next year’s presidential election, the ruling is a serious blow to Lula’s chances of a political comeback.
Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting $1.2 million worth of bribes from the engineering firm OAS SA. Prosecutors said the company spent the same amount refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his helping in winning contracts with state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro.
The former union leader, who won global praise for policies to reduce stinging inequality in Brazil, faces four more corruption trials and will remain free on appeal. Lula’s legal team said in an emailed statement that he was innocent and they would appeal. Moro said he did not order Silva’s immediate arrest because the conviction of a president is such a serious matter that he felt an appeal should be heard first
Lula was president between 2003 and 2010. His handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached last year over accusations of budget mishandling.
After receiving his sentence, Lula was defiant. On Thursday morning, he held a press conference at the Workers’ Party headquarters in São Paulo. He railed against Moro, whose two-hundred-and-sixty-page ruling, he said, showed “absolutely no proof” of his guilt. Before the verdict, Lula had been—despite his legal troubles—leading the country’s 2018 Presidential election polls, and now he vowed to run. “Anyone who thinks this is the end of Lula is going to be disappointed,” he said, in a voice that has been made gravelly by decades of smoking and a bout of throat cancer. “Wait for me, because no one can decree my end but the Brazilian people.”