The decision handed down by Federal Supreme Court (STF) justice, Edson Fachin, on Monday (8th), took the country by surprise.
According to the magistrate's opinion, all of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s convictions, within the scope of the Lava Jato anti-corruption operation, were annulled. In this way, the politician is once again eligible to run any election.
In his decision, Fachin stated that the 13th Federal Court of the city of Curitiba, the state capital of Paraná, responsible for the former president's convictions, does not have the jurisdiction to judge the cases involving a triplex apartment in Guarujá, a coastal city in the state of São Paulo, and a ranch in the city of Atibaia, in São Paulo’s countryside, in addition to two other filings against the Lula Institute.
According to the justice, these proceedings do not deal with money appropriated from State owned oil giant Petrobras, which was the initial objective of the Lava Jato Operation.
Thus, the oversight of these procedures will now be the responsibility of the Federal Court of Brasília, the nation’s capital. The Attorney General's Office (PGR), under the command of Augusto Aras, who is aligned politically with President Jair Bolsonaro, informed that he will appeal Fachin's decision so that Lula's sentences are upheld.
The request for habeas corpus that led to Edson Fachin's decision was presented by Lula's defense team in November of last year.
"It is the recognition that we have always been correct in this long legal battle, in which we never had to change our fundamental arguments to demonstrate the invalidity of the lawsuits, former President Lula’s innocence, and the lawfare (politically motivated use of the law) being practiced against him", highlighted attorneys Cristiano Zanin and Valeska Martins, in a press release published on Monday (8th).
In July 2017, the former Brazilian president was sentenced to 12 years and 1 month in prison, for corruption and money laundering in the case related the Guarujá triplex apartment. Lula was accused of having been given the property by construction company OAS as a bribe payment.
In the case of the ranch in Atibaia, Lula was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months by judge Gabriela Hardt. In this proceeding, the ex-president was accused of having taken bribes from construction companies OAS and Odebrecht, through work carried out on a country home that does not belong to the former president.
According to the complaint filed by the Federal Public Ministry of the state of Paraná, the renovations served to adapt the ranch to the needs of the ex-president and his companion at the time, Marisa Letícia, and would have cost R$ 850 thousand.
Still without a final judgment, there are two other legal actions against Lula that were annulled. In both, the Lula Institute, founded by the ex-president after leaving office is the target. According to the filings, the entity would have been created as a bribe disguised as a donation.
Lula's defense has always denied that the former president has benefited from the construction companies. Cristiano Zanin Martins, a lawyer for Lula’s Workers’ Party, maintains that the trial conducted by former judge, and former Justice Minister of the Jair Bolsonaro government, Sérgio Moro, was "political."
Moro’s suspicious conduct
Fachin's decision came on the eve of the Supreme Court’s judgment on Sérgio Moro’s conduct. The lawsuit was filed by Lula's defense, which questions the former judge’s impartiality while heading the trials of cases stemming from Operation Lava Jato.
By granting Lula habeas corpus, Fachin tries to avoid the potential for a judgment on Moro’s suspect conduct to lead to an annulment of all the other sentences handed down by Operation Lava Jato, forcing the trials to start from scratch.
However, STF judge Gilmar Mendes, responsible for the case involving Moro, nevertheless decided to take legal proceedings against the former judge to the floor of the Court’s 2nd Panel this Tuesday, March 9th.
The annulment of the sentences is yet another blow to Operation Lava Jato’s and former judge Sérgio Moro’s already fragile reputation.
The Workers’ Party leader was imprisoned for 580 days and released only after a Supreme Court decision that prohibited arrests after second appeal. That is, for a defendant to be incarcerated, all legal remedies must be exhausted in court.
The convictions against the former president prevented him from running in the 2018 presidential election, when he was leading the polls and appeared to be the main candidate to defeat Jair Bolsonaro in the race.
With Bolsonaro’s election, Moro put aside his judge's robe and accepted the job of Justice and Public Security Minister in the new government.
Lula's lawyers point out that Fachin's decision "cannot repair the irreparable damage caused by ex-judge Sergio Moro and Lava Jato prosecutors to former president Lula, the justice system and the democratic rule of law".
"Over this long trajectory, despite all the evidence of innocence that we have presented, former President Lula was unjustly imprisoned, his political rights were improperly removed and his assets were blocked", the lawyers point out.
"We have always proved that all these efforts were part of a collusion plot between then judge Sergio Moro and members of the Curitiba 'task force', as was reaffirmed by the material we had access to with the permission of the Federal Supreme Court (STF)".
This past Monday (8th), Moro suffered yet another defeat in court. STF judge Rosa Weber, rejected a request by the ex-justice, who asked that Lula's defense team not be granted access to text messages seized by a surveillance operation known as Operation Spoofing.
In these messages, Sérgio Moro was caught talking to, and advising prosecutors from the Federal Public Ministry of Paraná, in regards to the proceedings involving Lula. The alliance between the accusers and the judge presiding over the case, in their efforts to arrest the former president, decimated both the magistrate’s, and Operation Lava Jato’s reputation in the country.
Edited by: Leandro Melito