Brazils former President Lula da Silva has ended a 24-hour standoff between his supporters and federal authorities and has turned himself in to begin serving a 12-year sentence on corruption charges, which he is still appealing.
Da Silva had remained inside the Metal Workers Unions headquarters in Sao Paulo, surrounded by hundreds of supporters, ever since Federal Judge Sergio Moro on Thursday issued a warrant for the 72-year-olds arrest.
Although he missed the initial deadline to surrender by Friday afternoon, da Silva, known as Lula, handed himself over to authorities on Saturday evening, after the rejection of his final plea to stay out of jail while the appeal was pending.
Earlier, da Silva had addressed his supporters for almost an hour, telling them he was “ready” to obey the law and to accept his prison term. In his 55-minute-long speech, which was broadcast live on television, Lula continued to maintain his innocence. “The police and 'Car Wash' investigators lied. The prosecutors lied,” said da Silva. “I don't forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief.”
Announcing his decision to surrender, the politician noted that he will go behind bars so that he can “face them eye-to-eye.”
“The more days they leave me (in jail), the more Lulas will be born in this country,” he added, to a crowd clearly disappointed with his decision.
“Free Lula!” they chanted, before his supporters carried him on their shoulders back into the union building.
Several hours later, he walked out from the union building and surrendered, to be taken to the southern city of Curitiba to begin serving a 12-year sentence for alleged corruption and money-laundering.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Lula has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and declared himself a victim of political persecution. Speaking to Ecuadors former president Rafael Correa on RT last month, Lula argued that corruption charges have become an “instrument in the moral and ethical fight against opponents.”
You can watch the full interview below.
Lula said there was a massive media campaign against him and another former Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff. “There is a conspiracy in Brazil between the media, the judiciary, the prosecution service and police,” said Lula. Arguing that it is in the best interest for his country to disentangle itself from the American influence, Lula told RT that a prosperous Brazil is not in Washingtons interests.
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