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7 Apr, 2018 03:58

Brazil’s ex-President Lula defies jailing deadline shielded by hundreds of supporters (VIDEO)

Federal police in Brazil have reportedly decided to hold off the arrest of the former President Lula da Silva, who stayed inside the headquarters of a steelworkers union past the deadline, surrounded by hundreds of his supporters.

The fate of the 72-year-old former Brazilian leader is in limbo, after da Silva, known as Lula in the country, did not turn himself in to the Federal Police to begin serving his 12-year corruption sentence. The 5pm deadline, set in the arrest warrant issued by Judge Sergio Moro on Thursday, was missed, after Lula's supporters in Sao Bernardo do Campo refused to surrender their leader to the authorities.

READ MORE: Brazilian court orders ex-President Lula jailed, sets Friday deadline to turn himself in

As the deadline approached, hundreds of workers, students and land rights activists formed a human barricade outside ABC Metalworkers Union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, where da Silva has taken refuge since Thursday. "The fight goes on. Thank you," Lula tweeted after the deadline passed. In the meantime, he continued to encourage his supporters below from the window above.

Federal Police arrived at the union headquarters trying to negotiate Lula's surrender. So far, their efforts have been fruitless. Around 8pm local time, authorities lost all expectations that Lula will voluntarily turn himself in, Globo News reports, citing a police spokesperson, Natuza Nery. RedeTV also confirmed that the police ruled out entering the union headquarters to forcefully arrest the politician.

The police also took into account that there were no conditions permitting officers to enforce the arrest warrant, which specifically barred authorities from using handcuffs on the former Brazilian president. In Brazil, a raid or scheduled detention procedure must be carried out before 6pm, in broad daylight.

"Lula will not go to the slaughterhouse with his head down," his lawyer, Antonio Batocchio, was quoted as saying. Negotiations between Lula's camp of supporters and the federal police continued even as darkness fell, as authorities pursue extreme caution to avoid potential clashes with his supporters. 
Authorities hope that Lula's arrest can take place as early as Saturday. Meanwhile, Lula plans to honor his wife at a Saturday morning Mass. Marisa Leticia, who died in February 2017 would have turned 67 this Saturday. 

In the meantime, Workers Party leader Gleisi Hoffmann denied allegations that Lula was negotiating the conditions of his surrender, Reuters reports. Late Friday, in a last-ditch effort to keep the popular Brazilian politician out of prison, his lawyers filed yet another petition with the Supreme Court to reverse the prison order, arguing that da Silva is a victim of a political persecution designed to keep him out of the October's presidential race.

As the standoff continues, trade unionists and peasants of the Landless Peasants Movement (MST) have set up roadblocks in at least 24 Brazilian states willing to fight for Lula's freedom. 

Lula has strong public support and was widely expected to return to power politics, and even to win the upcoming October presidential elections as a candidate for Brazil's Workers' Party, according to the polls.

One of Brazil's most popular political figures, da Silva was convicted of money laundering and of passive corruption last July, and was sentenced to nine years behind bars. An appeals court in January upheld Lula's conviction and the court increased his sentence to 12 years.

On Thursday, Brazilian federal Judge Sergio Moro issued Lula's arrest order, a day after the Supreme Federal Court (STF) dismissed the former leader's plea to remain free while he appeals the corruption conviction, which he dismisses as machinations by his political opponents.

"Lula is innocent. He is the victim of one of the most serious actions against a person. Our Constitution is clear. You cannot arrest without all the appeals having been exhausted. The president [Lula] had the right to appeal," da Silva's protege, former President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday night to supporters rallying outside the union building.

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