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Counter rulings on Lula's release from jail spark protests in Brazil

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Photo by AFP)

The chief justice of a Brazilian appeals court has overruled a verdict by a fellow judge that urged the release of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, who has been seeking to run for president again in October's elections, was the 35th president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011. He has been serving a 12-year prison sentence since April after being found guilty of corruption.

Appeals court judge Rogerio Favreto ruled in the southern city of Porto Alegre on Sunday that Lula should be freed, citing a lack of legal grounds to keep him in jail. The verdict also said Lula must have the same conditions to campaign as other candidates in the upcoming elections.

The court’s chief justice, Carlos Eduardo Thompson Flores, however, overturned the order hours later.

Supporters of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rally for his release on July 8, 2018 in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. (Photo by AFP)

Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro had also threatened to block the move, saying Judge Favreto “did not have the authority” to grant Lula freedom.

The counter rulings have prompted protests in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where Lula’s supporters gathered on Sunday to demand his freedom. They were chanting “President Lula” and “free Lula.”

“We can’t sit by and watch this theater of Brazilian justice, using incorrect and illegal means to disregard a decision in favor of Lula’s release,” said a protester.

Lula has been battling to overturn his sentence in the hopes of making another presidential bid in the elections. According to a recent poll, he could win more than twice the support of his nearest challenger if he runs in the vote.

Brazilian protesters rally for the release of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo, on July 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

However, under Brazilian electoral law, politicians are not allowed to run for office within eight years of being found guilty of a crime.

Brazil’s electoral court will decide by next month whether Lula can run in the elections.

Lula was convicted of taking bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for granting the company public works contracts.

He also faces another six trials for other corruption allegations, but has denied any wrongdoing.

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