27 Aug 2019
A Brazilian Supreme Court justice believes jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva deserves a retrial after leaked social media conversations appeared to show the judge hearing Brazil’s largest-ever corruption case collaborated with prosecutors.
Justice Gilmar Mendes said in an interview with Reuters that the so-called Car Wash investigation was a success in battling the “metastasis of corruption” in Brazil but it became politicized and prosecutors went too far.
Lula is serving a 12-year prison sentence for taking bribes, and the judge who convicted him, Sergio Moro, is now Brazil’s justice minister in right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet.
Mendes’ views could influence other judges on the 11-member Supreme Court, which has postponed a politically charged ruling on whether Moro was impartial when trying Lula. If it rules he was not, Lula would face retrial and could be exonerated. The Bolsonaro government and its supporters fiercely oppose any move by the court that could result in Lula’s freedom.
Mendes said there are doubts about whether due process was followed in Lula’s trial and whether he was actually complicit in the huge corruption scheme uncovered by Car Wash that involved bribes and political kickbacks on contracts with oil company Petrobras and other state-run companies.
“We owe Lula a fair trial,” Mendes said in the interview on Thursday in his Supreme Court offices.
Mendes has been a main critic of the excessive use of plea bargains and provisional detentions of suspects in the sprawling Car Wash investigation that led to the jailing of high-profile politicians and construction executives. He has previously been vocal about perceived irregularities in the prosecution of Lula.
Lula, a popular leftist leader, was tried for receiving a beachside apartment and a country house from engineering firms in return for their winning lucrative state contracts under his Workers Party’s government.
The leaking of conversations between Moro and prosecutors by the news website The Intercept was a positive step, according to Mendes, as it could be the nail in the coffin of the Car Wash investigation that had come to “monopolize” Brazil’s war on corruption.
By Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle, Reuters, 26 August 2019
Read more at Reuters
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