Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to testify today in a hearing over bribery accusations in what the media has framed as an epic battle between Lula and the controversial judge in charge of the investigations into the largest corruption scheme case in the country, called Operation Car Wash.
Lula is set to speak at the federal court in the southern city of Curitiba, in front of Judge Sergio Moro, who has been criticized for seeking to prosecute the former president without evidence and postponing trials against him.
Lula faces five separate corruption trials that he has slammed as a politically motivated witch hunt and part of a smear campaign to sabotage his bid for the 2018 presidential elections.
The prosecutors accuse Lula of orchestrating a kickback scheme for contracts involving the state-run oil company Petrobras and the largest construction company Odebrecht.
Prosecutors said Lula and his late wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, benefited from this money and used it to purchase and renovate real estate. Every witness called by the prosecution denied any irregularities or Lula's involvement.
Lula is also accused of funneling money into the campaign of his Workers Party, allies, and even current ruling party, the Democratic Movement Party. Its leader, current President Michel Temer, who came to power after the parliamentary coup against Lula's ally Dilma Rousseff, is accused of receiving more than US$3 million from Odebrecht.
Juge Moro was removed from the case over questions of legality in the investigations, but months later was put back on the investigation at the same time when the parliamentary coup against Rousseff was in its final stages.
Prosecutor Coordinator Deltan Dallagnol said that he and Moro, who have worked in several cases together, are from the "same team."
Moro has been criticized for leaking a private conversation between Lula and Rousseff during the investigations after the Supreme Court ruled that the wiretap could not be used as evidence. Moro released the recording as alleged evidence that Rousseff appointed Lula to her Cabinet as a move to guard him against prosecution.
He released a report in 2016 clearing Lula of any charges and later backtracked by continuing to press charges against him. Even last month, the judge admitted that the success of the investigations is based more on popular pressure than on factual evidence.
Lula has since criticized how the country's right-wing media has targeted him and even declared him guilty without due process or a transparent investigation. He said that mainstream media outlets serve to uphold traditional ruling elites who are opposed to progressive politicians, like himself.
Even the United Nations Human Rights Committee accepted the request by Lula's attorneys that Judge Moro had "violated Lula's right to privacy, his right not to be detained arbitrarily and his presumption of innocence."
Thousands of supporters gathered since Tuesday at Curitiba in what they call "Democracy Camps" to show support for the most popular politician who currently leads in the polls for the 2018 presidential election.
One recent poll showed Lula has 29 percent to 31 percent support and is considered one of Brazil’s most popular presidents after leaving office with a 90 percent approval rating.