Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's has denounced legal proceedings surrounding corruption allegations against him, accusing the court headed by Federal Judge Sergio Moro of siding with the prosecution while failing to ensure the rights of the defendant. The process has galvanized Brazil's population and electrified opposition to the government of President Michel Temer, as evidenced by the crowd of over seven thousand supporters who demonstrated near the courthouse.
The comments were underscored by his legal team in a press conference following his testimony, which lasted just under two hours. The former head of state told the court that corruption charges against him are part of a politicized witch-hunt aimed at smearing his legacy of helping to develop the country, empower the marginalized, and help to ensure social justice for the poor and dispossessed.
Following the conference, Lula appeared before the crowds to denounce “the elites” who are punishing him for his “unpardonable sins” of improving living conditions for the poor and lifting the country up from its “inferiority complex.”
A longtime former trade union leader, Lula challenged his “castigators” as having chosen the wrong person to pick on, noting that he prefers death before suffering the indignity of being recorded in history as a liar.
He faces accusations of corruption for allegedly accepting bribes from construction conglomerate Odebrecht in the form of a plot of land to host his Lula Institute in Sao Paulo.
“Lula bugs a lot of people, but millions of 'Lulas' make a lot of trouble, and together we're going to transform this country," he told his audience.
Speaking to journalists, attorneys Cristiano Zanin and Valeska Teixeira Martin slammed presiding Judge Moro for allowing prosecutors to withhold evidence, present specious arguments, and grill the popular head of state over irrelevant issues that lie beyond the scope of allegations.
Critics claim that Moro, the head of the sprawling Operation Car Wash investigation, has an axe to grind against the former head of state and is motivated to dismantle the Workers' Party, PT, and prevent its return to Brazil's political stage following Lula's announced 2018 presidential run.
“Lula's testimony showed how the judge and prosecution aren't trying to determine the truth of the facts,” Zanin said, noting that none of the questions leveled at his client concerned the allegations that Lula accepted bribes for eight Petrobras contracts with Odebrecht in exchange.
“Remember that by the standards of criminal law, the only way these accusations can be proven is to show that as president, Lula used his powers to obtain these benefits,” the lawyer added.
Zanin added that the same judge upheld similar “groundless” allegations of having accepted a beach-side apartment in nearby Sao Bernardo do Campo while failing to establish Lula's proof of guilt while ignoring proof of his evidence.
During Lula's testimony, he challenged claims leveled against him by co-defendant and former Finance Minister Antonio Palocci as “laughable fiction,” noting that his old comrade is “cold, calculating” and shrewd. Palocci has accused the former president of entering a so-called “blood pact” with Odebrecht that was arranged through alleged secret meetings, a claim Lula denies.
Lula's defense team accused Palocci of acting as a tool of the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence, noting the discrepancies between his present claims and his earlier testimonies as well as his inability to provide evidence of the alleged meetings held between Lula and the construction giant.
The lawyers also blasted the court for failing to disclose evidence used in the prosecuting the defendant, reiterating that the withholding of evidence from the accused is a clear breach of Brazil's constitution and international law.