Brazil's ex-president

Lula's case to be reviewed today by Brazil's Superior Court of Justice

This is the first time a superior court will judge the merits of the case that led to the conviction of ex-president

Protests, vigils, and demonstrations call for freedom for former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is seen as a political prisoner / Miguel Schincariol/AFP

A panel of Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice is expected to rule Tuesday on appeal of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva regarding the Guarujá beachside apartment case. This will be the first time that a superior court will judge the merits of the conviction of the former president as part of Operation Car Wash.

Lula’s defense says, however, that they were not notified of the decision to rule on the case today, having only found out about today’s session through the media. His lawyers filed an official complaint on Monday night and asked the court to adjourn it. They argue that by 6:30 p.m. last night the court still informed that it was not expected to review on appeal during today’s session, and only two hours later the panel’s press office released a statement informing that it would review on the matter today.

“We, ex-president Lula’s defense, were not notified of the session or received any kind of information during the examinations we conducted yesterday throughout the day in court. A statement was released to the press late at night. That does not seem appropriate to guarantee the constitutional right of defense and our professional prerogatives,” the ex-president’s lawyer Cristiano Zanin told newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

Lula was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison in July 2017. His sentence was later upheld by an appeals court in January 2018, which extended it to 12 years and one month in prison.

The former president’s defense team claims that the process was rigged, as his right of defense was limited and there was no crime to convict him of, as well as other irregularities.

In late 2018, the judge-rapporteur in the case, Felix Fischer, denied an appeal filed by the ex-president’s defense, which then filed an internal interlocutory appeal. This is what the superior court of justice will review on this Tuesday.

Possible scenarios

There are some possible scenarios for today’s session in Brazil's Superior Court of Justice. The panel may uphold the ex-president’s conviction, reduce his sentence, or overturn his conviction.

If they reject the appeal, Lula would remain in prison. In case they change the sentence, that could reduce it or even change the prison regime to semi-open or open prison. But if the panel acknowledges the prison as illegal, Lula could be acquitted and ultimately freed.

The ex-president’s defense also asked that the Superior Court of Justice should consider that the case was supposed to be tried by Brazil’s election court based on a recent decision by the Supreme Court. In this case, the process would have to start over and Lula would be released.

The ex-president of Brazil has been in prison since April 7th, 2018 at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, after the then judge and now Justice minister Sérgio Moro ordered his arrest. Lula has reiterated many times since he was first convicted that he would like his case to be reviewed by superior courts.

Edition: Vivian Fernandes