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Brazil's da Silva first president jailed, but others accused

09 April 2018

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.

The union building is in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo in Sao Paulo state, more 260 miles to the north.

Lula's supporters regard the judicial proceedings as a plot to keep him out of the October 7 presidential race, which he had been expected to win easily, while opponents say jailing him would boost Brazil's fight against impunity.

In January, an appeals court unanimously upheld the corruption and money laundering charges against him, and he was handed the prison sentence.

Surrounded by thousands of supporters at the metalworkers' union building in the suburb, he brazenly ignored an order to turn himself in by Friday, April 6.

Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delivers a speech outside the Metal Workers Union headquarters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, Saturday, April 7.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is in police custody after a tense showdown with supporters who tried to block him leaving a union building. Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, who died in February 2017, would have turned 68 on Saturday.

After his arrest, there were reports of fireworks and cheering in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities among those who long considered Lula responsible for the tide of graft sweeping over Brazilian politics.

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Lula turned himself in to police on Saturday after speaking to a crowd of supporters.

Lula "is not a normal prisoner, he's a political prisoner, the first since the reemergence of democracy" in 1985, she said.

In 2003, Lula was celebrated as the first working-class president in a country with stark inequality.

He won two terms as President.

"The intention is not to force compliance at any cost, but rather follow the order the best way possible, with tranquility and without a media show", Luis Antonio Boudens, president of the federal police, said in a statement.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama once called da Silva the "most popular politician on Earth".

His conviction stemmed from a wide-ranging corruption investigation into the state-run oil company Petrobras, dubbed "Operation Car Wash". Later, he was carried off the stage at the headquarters on their shoulders as they chanted his name and showered him with flowers.

However, Brazil's electoral court is widely expected to bar Lula from contesting the elections.

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Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, is the base for the country's huge "Car Wash" anti-corruption operation in which Lula is the biggest scalp so far.

In an hourlong speech, Lula had called himself "an outraged citizen" over his conviction, saying that Brazil's top anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, "lied" about him being given the apartment by a big construction firm as a kickback.

"I am the only human being to be put on trial for a flat that does not belong to me", he said.

Lula accused the judiciary and Brazil's most powerful media conglomerate of assisting a right-wing coup with the ultimate aim of preventing him from competing in the race.

As things stand, anyone convicted and losing a first appeal, as in Lula's case, must conduct further appeals from prison.

Officials from the Unified Workers' Central (CUT), Brazil's largest trade union federation, said they were expecting dozens of convoys to arrive, bringing in supporters from across the country.

But, crucially, Lula said he would drop his dramatic show of resistance and comply with the arrest warrant.

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Brazil's da Silva first president jailed, but others accused