Brazil ex-president asks for jail leave to bury grandson

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, serving a long jail term for corruption, asked Friday for furlough to attend the funeral of his grandson, who died at the age of seven.

"President Lula lost his grandson today," the head of his Workers Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, said on Twitter. "Arthur was seven and was the victim of meningitis. Be brave, Mr President, we stand with you."

A party spokesman confirmed that lawyers for the ex-president, serving two concurrent 12-year sentences for corruption, had filed a request for leave to attend the boy's funeral.

Arthur Araujo Lula da Silva died in a hospital in Sao Paulo, the country's southeastern business hub.

He was the son of Sandro Luiz Lula da Silva, one of the former president's five sons. He will be buried on Saturday, the party said.

The boy had twice visited his grandfather in prison in the southern city of Curitiba, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Sao Paulo.

Lula's lawyers argued that by law, the former president -- who served two terms and became a global icon of the left -- was entitled to leave on compassionate grounds, having lost a close family member.

But Lula missed the funeral of his 79-year-old brother Vava in late January, when he died of cancer.

His request was initially denied by a lower court judge and by the time a Supreme Court justice approved it, his brother's funeral had already taken place.

"They didn't let me say my goodbyes to Vava out of pure spite," the president said afterwards, quoted in a party statement.

Police have also spoken out against releasing the high-profile inmate, arguing they lacked the manpower to keep the highly divisive figure safe.

Last April Lula, 73, began serving a 12 year sentence for taking a bribe in the form of a seaside apartment and for money laundering.

Last month, he received a separate sentence of almost 13 years for accepting renovation work by two construction companies on a farmhouse in exchange for ensuring they won contracts with the state-run oil company Petrobras.

Petrobras is at the center of a massive corruption scandal that has devastated the country's political and business elite.