Several thousand supporters of former Brazilian president LuizInacio Lula da Silva rallied on Sunday outside the prison where he has now been held for a year, as they demanded his release and chanted slogans against current leader Jair Bolsonaro.
In a letter read out by Workers’ Party president Gleisi Hoffmann, Lula, who is 73, insisted that his conviction on corruption charges was ‘unjust’ and designed to keep him from returning to the presidency.
‘They never presented a shred of evidence against me. I am a political prisoner, in exile inside my own country,’ Lula wrote in the letter.
Lula argues that Bolsonaro’s justice minister Sergio Moro was not impartial in his case, as his job
Lula’s supporters had gathered early Sunday at a bus station 1.2 miles away before marching to the headquarters of the Federal Police, which also houses Lula’s prison.
They mixed chants of ‘Free Lula!’ with shouts denouncing the extreme right-wing Bolsonaro.
Just a few meters from Lula’s cell, dozens of his most fervent supporters have carried on a vigil since the day of his arrest. They sing to him every morning at nine o’clock, and wish him a ‘Good Night’ every evening at 7pm.
‘The case against him is groundless, in our view. So we will continue to demonstrate and fight for his rights,’ said former presidential candidate Fernando Haddad, beaten by Bolsonaro in the second round of the October vote.
Organisers said the event Sunday drew 10,000 people, though the military police put the total at 3,000 to 5,000.
Similar rallies in other cities, including Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, as well as in some other countries, were called to protest the continuing imprisonment of Lula, the popular patriarch of the Brazilian left, who is serving a 12-year sentence — and potentially faces 12 more years if additional charges are confirmed.
The former president (2003-2010) was convicted of corruption and money laundering for his role in the Petrobras scandal involving massive pilfering from the state oil company.
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