April 4 (UPI) — Thousands of demonstrators rallied Wednesday — for and against Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, whose possible jail sentence will be decided soon.
Lula was Brazil’s left-wing president from 1995 to 2003, and later was indicted for corruption and money laundering charges in a government and business scandal known as Operation Car Wash.
Investigators examined allegations that Brazilian construction companies overcharged the state oil company for building contracts, and found kickbacks in a web of government corruption.
Lula was found guilty of accepting $1.1 million in bribes.
An appeals court upheld the initial verdict and increased his sentence to 12 and-a-half years.
A Supreme Court ruling was expected Wednesday to decide if Lula should be imprisoned immediately, or if he can remain free pending further appeals — and run in October’s presidential election.
Polls suggest Lula would win by a large majority if his campaign wasn’t hampered by the potential prison sentence. If jailed, he will likely be barred from running for office.
Large rallies — favoring and opposing Lula — occurred in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo Tuesday. About 20,000 gathered in Sao Paolo to demand his immediate jailing, as did a large group on Rio’s Copacabana beach.
Across town in Lapa, a pro-Lula demonstration included the candidate himself. Supporters occupied Sao Paolo’s Avenida Paulista and closed four blocks of the street, the Rio Times reported.