I will not trade my dignity for my freedom, says Lula

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva refused any relaxation in his conditions of imprisonment and said he would only accept the quashing of the verdict against him and his release

October 01, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Lula speaking to the masses. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has refused any relaxation in the nature of his imprisonment until his innocence is recognized. He declared this in a letter in response to a petition by Operation Car Wash prosecutors to change the conditions of his incarceration from closed to semi-open. The letter was given by Lula to his lawyers on September 30, Monday.

By law, Lula should already have the right to change the conditions of his incarceration, but he refused the offer by prosecutors, declaring “I want you to know that I won’t accept bargaining with my rights and my freedom.” Lula was convicted on based on evidence considered extremely unacceptable by experts across the world and following a trial marked by irregularities. He has demanded that he be considered innocent and allowed to leave prison.

According to the ex-president, the prosecutors should apologize “to the Brazilian people, to the millions of unemployed people, and my family, for the harm they have done to democracy, to the system of justice, and to the country.”

Outside the federal police headquarters in Curitiba where is currently imprisoned, lawyer Cristiano Zanin explained to journalists and activists at the Free Lula vigil that the former president “does not recognize the legitimacy of the process that has put him in prison.”

“The moment he does not recognize the legitimacy, he is not obliged to accept any condition of the State,” said Zanin.

Several journalists asked what would happen if Carolina Lebbos, the substitute judge of the 12th federal district, before whom the prosecutors filed the request, decided to send Lula to a semi-open prison. The lawyer reiterated that it would be necessary to respect the will of the ex-president as it does not represent non-compliance with the legal system.

What Lula wants, according to Zanin, is for the Supreme Federal Court (STF) to analyze the evidence and information revealing the illegalities of the process that brought him to prison, which would lead to the annulment of the sentence and his liberty.

“We want to reiterate to the Supreme Court the requests made since last year. This is the path so that the processes can be annulled because they were made without observance to legal due process,” said the lawyer.

The leadership of the Workers’ Party (PT) also addressed the Free Lula vigil to explain his decision. President of the PT Gleisi Hoffman said, “They did not understand the dimension of Lula and what they are dealing with. And now they have a problem, because they are stuck in a lie and they cannot get out.”

Fernando Haddad, who stepped in as presidential candidate for the Workers’ Party after Lula’s candidacy was rejected, highlighted the importance of the voting in the Supreme Federal Court on a habeas corpus plea which seeks to suspend former judge Sergio Moro from the case. This ruling would annul the sentence in the Operation Car Wash case wherein Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison for supposedly accepting a remodeled triplex apartment. Haddad said “We are saying that this trial has to happen because if this sentence is annulled, we will bring Lula home with his head held high, looking at each one of us.”

The Operation Car Wash task force team which was once heralded nationally and internationally for its work to fight high-level corruption in Brazil, was recently uncovered to be a group of prosecutors with political motivations. They were shown to have violated the law throughout their investigation and prosecution of Lula. The Intercept published a series of reports in early June detailing how prosecutors worked with the judge on the case, Sérgio Moro, on the tactics and lines of investigation in order to convict Lula. They also revealed how the prosecutors schemed to stop Lula from giving a televised interview before the elections in support of Haddad.

Due to these violations and irregularities, and prior ones which had been denounced by the legal defense team of Lula, his defense filed a habeas corpus petition requesting that Sérgio Moro be suspended from the case. Moro was one of the head judges overseeing the Operation Car Wash investigation, and was responsible for sentencing Lula to nine-and-a-half years in prison in 2017 (the term was later increased to 12 years). The hearing was set to take place on June 25, but the judges of Brazil’s Supreme Court decided to postpone it.

Lula’s Letter

To the Brazilian people

I will not trade my dignity for my freedom.

All the Car Wash Prosecutors should really do is to apologize to the Brazilian people, to the millions of unemployed people, and my family, for the harm they have done to democracy, to the system of justice, and to the country.

I want you to know that I won’t accept bargaining with my rights and my freedom.

I have demonstrated that the charges against me are false. They are the ones who are trapped in the lies they have told Brazil and the world, and not me.

Faced with the arbitrary acts committed by the Prosecutors and by Sergio Moro, it is up to the Supreme Court now to make amendments so that there be independent and impartial justice, as it is entitled to every citizen.

I am fully aware of the decisions I have made in this procedure and I won’t rest until truth and justice prevail again.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Curitiba, September 30, 2019