SÃO PAULO – Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that the judge who convicted former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of corruption was biased, strengthening the likely electoral candidacy of the leftist leader next year.
In a ruling Tuesday night, the court found that Sergio Moro, the trial judge who oversaw Car Wash’s corruption trials in the country, failed to act impartially in the case amid allegations that he trained the prosecutors. The decision rules out da Silva’s 2017 conviction on allegations that he received a beachfront apartment as a bribe, a conviction that later landed him in jail and prevented him from running in the last presidential election.
After being released from prison in 2019, da Silva has become the country’s main opposition leader and the strongest rival of President Jair Bolsonaro, who faces mounting criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Brazil’s death toll from the virus hit a daily record 3,251 on Tuesday as hospitals across the country run out of beds and face shortages of oxygen and other supplies.
The Supreme Court ruling is “practically a checkmate” for Car Wash’s corruption investigation in the country, a sprawling investigation launched in 2014 over inflated contracts at oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, said Vera Chemim, a lawyer. based in São Paulo. “This almost certainly means [Mr. da Silva] he will be eligible to run in the next elections in 2022, “he said.
Da Silva’s conviction has divided Latin America’s largest country since 2017, and supporters of the charismatic former steelworker argue that he was the victim of political persecution. After helping lead the Car Wash investigations, Moro took a job as Bolsonaro’s justice minister, though he later resigned. The current president is da Silva’s rival, and some political scientists say Bolsonaro would never have won the presidency if the left-wing leader had been allowed to run in 2018.