Brazil's Lula 'must start prison term'

The final outcome is still pending six justices have yet to submit their vote. Weber however was seen as the swing vote making it increasingly likely that the state will decide to imprison Lula

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be sent to prison while he appeals a corruption conviction, after a late-night ruling by Brazil's highest court early Thursday.

Villas Boas wrote that the army would not now depart from its constitutional role, but some retired officers have warned that the military might indeed be tempted to intervene if the Supreme Court allowed Lula to go free on appeal.

Social media exploded with expressions for and against the ex-President.

The court showdown in the capital Brasilia is a key battle for Brazil's deeply polarised electorate ahead of the October polls, in which Lula is now the heavy favourite, despite his legal problems.

The impending jailing of the former president marks a dramatic fall for the firebrand populist, who rose from poverty to become the country's first working-class president.

Brazil's October presidential election will likely feature current President Michel Temer alongside Henrique Meirelles; if the two join sides with one another, Meirelles is likely to assume the role of vice president, whereas Temer will remain president.

Lula was convicted in July of corruption and money laundering and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.

Lula himself was convicted of receiving a renovated beachfront apartment worth some 3.7 million reais ($1.1m, £790,000), as a bribe by engineering firm OAS. The conviction was handed down by Judge Sergio Moro, who is presiding over cases involving the so-called "Car Wash" investigation.

More protests - for and against Lula - were planned in Brasilia on Wednesday, with demonstrators separated by a metal barrier and heavy police presence.

"There is no justice in this decision", the PT said in a statement on Thursday, "there is a combination of political and economic interests, against the country and its sovereignty, against the democratic process, against the Brazilian people". He denies any wrongdoing in that case or in several other corruption cases that have yet to be tried. However, under Brazilian law he can also be forced to begin serving his sentence while he appeals.

"I did not accept the military dictatorship and I will not accept this dictatorship of the prosecutors", he told a gathering of supporters on Monday.

An arrest warrant must be issued before Lula would be taken into custody. They would look into whether legal procedures were followed correctly and whether his constitutional rights were breached. Last week, a court upheld the conviction. That conviction was upheld by an appeals court in January. Exceptions have been made to the law in the past, according to BBC. These courts have the power to annul Lula's conviction while another court -the Superior Electoral Court- will decide if he is allowed to run for president again. So we may not know for months to come whether he will be able to stand.

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