Brazil's Lula to turn himself in to police, claims innocent

Brazil's Ex-President Lula Defies 5 pm Arrest Deadline

Brazil's Ex-President Lula Defies 5 pm Arrest Deadline

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.

Judge Sergio Moro, who oversees numerous so-called "Car Wash" cases, then ordered an arrest warrant for da Silva, giving him until 5 p.m. Friday to present himself to police in Curitiba, about 260 miles (417 kilometers) southwest of Sao Bernardo do Campo, and begin serving his 12-year sentence.

Three days ago, a final verdict on the habeas corpus plea filed by Lula was taken by the Supreme Court in Brazil which rejected the former leader's bid to avoid prison.

A high court in January found him guilty of taking bribes and sentenced him to more than 12 years in prison.

"In Brazil, everything is possible, so he could spend a week in prison and then a judge from the Supreme Federal Court could send him to house arrest, for example", said Oliver Stuenkel, a specialist in global relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo.

In emotional scenes earlier Saturday, he emerged from the building to address the several thousand diehard supporters from his Workers' Party and other leftist organizations who had vowed to shield him from police.

Da Silva, who Brazilians simply call "Lula", did no such thing.

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.

Two sources close to da Silva told The Associated Press the former leader would not go to Curitiba, but instead was considering either waiting for police at the union or presenting himself in Sao Paulo on Saturday.

"Lula did not comply with a judicial order", a spokesman for Moro told AFP, "but everyone knows where he is".

Last year, Moro convicted da Silva of trading favors with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

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Choosing the metal workers union to take refuge, and not the Workers' Party headquarters, was also significant, said Santoro.

He faces a jail term of 12 years and one month.

After running for president several times, in 2002 da Silva finally won.

"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.

Operation "Car Wash" was named after the service station where agents initially investigated a minor money laundering scheme in 2014, before realizing that they'd stumbled on a gargantuan web of embezzlement and bribery at state oil company Petrobras and right through the political classes.

The move intensified the roiling political drama in Latin America's largest nation and turned a man former US President Barack Obama once called "the most popular politician on Earth" into the region's most famous prisoner.

The electoral court is widely expected to bar Lula from contesting the upcoming elections.

To his Workers' Party faithful, Lula is a victim of an out-of-control judiciary preventing him from returning to power.

Detractors say that Lula epitomizes Brazil's corruption-riddled elite and his conviction is the biggest "Car Wash" scalp by far.

"You'll see that I will come out of this bigger, stronger", he said, promising to prove his innocence. Later, he was carried off the stage at the headquarters on their shoulders as they chanted his name and showered him with flowers.

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