Brazil's Lula Must Face Prison Term, says Supreme Court

The hearing prompted protests in support of the popular politician who many say is victim

Brazilian court rules former president Lula can be jailed during second corruption appeal

Justices on Brazil's top court are so far split on whether to grant a petition from former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to stay out of prison while he appeals a 12-year sentence for corruption.

Rafael Guedes told journalists that the order will "put the spotlight even more on the ex-president".

Maintaining his innocence, Lula has said that the charges are politically motivated to prevent him running for president again.

Last July, Lula was convicted of corruption and money laundering, and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison. Under Brazilian electoral law, a candidate is forbidden from running for office for eight years after being found guilty of a crime.

After almost 11 hours of often heated debate, the Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 6-5 to deny da Silva's request to stave off a 12-year prison sentence while he fights a conviction that he has always argued was nothing more than a ploy to keep him off of the October ballot.

The most notable pressure ahead of the court ruling came from Brazil's army commander, who broke traditional non-interference in politics by appearing to call for Lula to be imprisoned.

Lula claims the charges are politically motivated and created to prevent him from running this year's election.

A sprawling corruption investigation involving the state-run oil company Petrobras, dubbed Operation Car Wash, "has ensnared numerous country's politicians and business figures in high-profile allegations", as The Two-Way reported, including the current conservative president, Michel Temer, and executives at the meatpacking company JBS.

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Lula's original 9.5-year sentence was extended to 12 years by an appeals court in January. Experts say his chances of making it onto the ballot are slim to none - but some think that could work in his party's favor.

During his presidency, Brazil experienced its longest period of economic growth in three decades allowing his administration to spend lavishly on social programmes.

Lula was convicted past year for taking bribes from an engineering firm in return for help landing contracts with state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA).

In the latest election polling, Lula scores more than 30 percent, with his nearest rivals in a crowded field getting only around half that.

The decision against Lula is a serious blow to the political survival of Brazil's first working-class president, whose career from factory shop floor to high office is sinking in the corruption scandals that have rocked the political establishment and especially his Workers Party, which held power from 2003 until mid-2016.

To them, Lula epitomizes Brazil's corruption-riddled elite. Exceptions have been made to the law in the past, according to BBC.

After the ruling, Lula's Workers' Party said it was a "tragic day for democracy in Brazil".

The decision as to whether Lula can stand for president will rest with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

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