Brazil’s top electoral court has ruled that jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is barred from running in October’s presidential elections.
The ruling came after a dramatic and gruelling late-night session broadcast live on television and across news sites, and defied a request from the United Nations human rights committee that he be allowed to stand.
Lula is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering. The court also banned him from campaign advertisements. His defence said it would appeal the decision to Brazil’s supreme court.
From behind bars, Lula, the hugely popular, two times former leftist president and union leader leads polling in Brazil’s most unpredictable and polarised presidential election in decades. The decision to bar his candidacy plays to the advantage of extreme rightwing candidate Jair Bolsonaro, running second in polls and ahead without Lula.
“I never wanted this and if it depended on me I would have avoided that destiny brought us here,” said Luís Barroso, the judge who steered the process and voted to bar the candidacy of the most popular Brazilian leader in living memory. His colleague Edson Fachin – who has jailed other politicians in a sprawling graft investigation – disagreed and said the United Nations decision should prevail.
The human rights commission said in a statement in August that its decision was “an urgent measure to preserve Lula’s right, pending the case consideration on the merits, which will take place next year”.
A majority of the seven judges on the court agreed with Barroso, who argued that the United Nations recommendation could not supersede a “clean slate” law that bars candidates convicted of serious crimes, corruption or who have been impeached, and was introduced under Lula’s second government in 2010.
Lula’s leftist Workers’ party attacked the decision and vowed to fight for his candidacy. “We will defend Lula in the streets, with the Brazilian people,” said party president Gleisi Hoffman.