Brazil's Lula found not guilty of obstruction of justice

Judge acquitted Brazil’s ex-president for lack of evidence to back up co-defendant’s testimony

São Paulo |
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during caravan tour in Brazil’s South region in March 2018
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during caravan tour in Brazil’s South region in March 2018 - Ricardo Stuckert

Judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite found on Thursday Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva not guilty of obstruction of justice. The case was filed by the prosecutor’s office based on the testimony of former senator and defendant Decíldio do Amaral, who accused Lula of having asked Amaral to stop Néstor Cerveró, an ex-director of Petrobras, from testifying in exchange for leniency.

In his ruling, the judge said that testimonies of other defendants and testimonies in exchange of reduced sentences do not have "enough credibility" to secure a conviction if they are not backed up by more evidence. In addition to the former president, six people were also found not guilty: ex-senator Delcídio do Amaral, his ex-chief of staff Diogo Ferreira, banker André Esteves, Cerveró’s ex-laywer Edson Siqueira de Ribeiro Filho, cattle farmer José Carlos Bumlai, and his son Maurício Bumlai.

Ex-president Lula’s defense lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins released a statement saying the accusation was based on a version created by Delcídio do Amaral so that he could benefit from a plea agreement negotiated with the prosecution. “During the process, Cerveró, as well as other witnesses heard – both for the prosecution and the defense – never confirmed Lula took part in any activities aiming to interfere with the oil company’s former director’s testimony.”

The prosecutor’s office actually acknowledged, in their closing arguments, that there was no evidence that the former Brazilian president was guilty, and ultimately asked the court to acquit the defendants. For Lula’s lawyers, while the cases are completely different, Lula’s acquittal on Thursday “makes the illegitimate character of his conviction in the triplex case even clearer.”

The defense argued that judge Leite was unbiased in his decision, recognizing Amaral’s testimony in exchange for leniency was not proof enough because there were no elements to back it up, while judge Sérgio Moro, who found Lula guilty of corruption, completely accepted a co-defendant’s testimony. “We hope justice will also prevail in the triplex case, to finally give Lula his freedom back,” the statement reads.

Edited by: Juca Guimarães | Translated by Aline Scátola