Top Brazil judge annuls Lula convictions, opening door to 2022 run

Former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures after voting at a polling station during the municipal elections in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, November 15, 2020.
Former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures after voting at a polling station during the municipal elections in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, November 15, 2020. © Amanda Perobelli, Reuters

A Supreme Court judge on Monday annulled the criminal convictions against Brazil's former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, restoring his political rights ahead of next year's presidential election.

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The decision scrambles forecasts for the 2022 race, potentially paving the way for a showdown between President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, and Lula, easily his most formidable opponent on the left.

Lula, as he is known throughout Brazil, governed Latin America's largest economy between 2003 and 2011. He was convicted over graft allegations in 2018 and released in late 2019.

France 24's Tim Vickery reports from Rio de Janeiro
01:11

In a surprise decision, Justice Edson Fachin ruled on Monday that a court in the southern city of Curitiba did not have the authority to try Lula on corruption charges and that he must be retried in federal courts in the capital, Brasilia.

The decision means Lula would be eligible to run for president next year should he wish to challenge Bolsonaro, said the local newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Hailing the ruling in a Twitter post, Lula said it was "recognition that we have always been correct throughout our legal battle".

The office of Brazil's prosecutor general said it will appeal the decision, which will also be reviewed by the full Supreme Court.

Polarising figure

Lula's graft conviction in 2018 blocked him from running in the elections that year. He was then released from prison in late 2019, but could not run for office due to his criminal record.

The 75-year-old has maintained his innocence and said the case against him was politically motivated.

The charismatic former union leader is a polarising figure but still popular with many of the country's poor, who credit him for bringing millions out of poverty.

Lula is the only one of 10 potential 2022 candidates who outperformed Bolsonaro in a survey by polling company Ipec, published in newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo last week.

It found that 50 percent of the 2,002 people it interviewed "would certainly" or "could" vote for Lula, compared with 38 percent for Bolsonaro.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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