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Protesters target latest campaign tour by Brazil's Lula

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Bagé (Brazil) (AFP)

Protesters interrupted the start Monday of an election campaign tour by former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads opinion polls but faces a lengthy jail sentence for corruption.

Police had to intervene to separate some 150 protesting farmers and Lula's supporters in Bage, where the leftist leader was starting a bus tour of southern Brazil ahead of October 7 elections.

The protesters brandished an effigy depicting Lula in prison garb and shouted: "Lula, thief, your place is in prison!"

Supporters played accordions and chanted back: "Lula, warrior of the Brazilian people!"

Lula, 72, was due to continue on his journey from Bage to Santana do Livramento on the border with Uruguay to meet another charismatic leftist, former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica. The tour runs through March 28.

Lula, who was president from 2003-2010, easily leads in polls of possible presidential candidates. However, his chance for a comeback appears doomed by the likelihood of an imminent start to his prison sentence.

An appeals court sentenced him to 12 years and one month in January after upholding his conviction for having taken an upscale seaside apartment as a bribe from a construction company involved in Brazil's massive "Car Wash" corruption scheme.

The same court is now due to decide soon on a technical challenge to that ruling. If it goes against Lula, he could face almost immediate incarceration.

However, Lula's lawyers have been working on multiple legal fronts to try and keep him out of prison -- or get him out as soon as possible if he is forced to begin serving the sentence.

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