Sao Paulo (AFP) – Brazil’s Supreme Court granted Tuesday a former top aide to ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a temporary leave from jail, where he is serving a nearly 31-year sentence for corruption.
Jose Dirceu, 72, started his jail term in May after losing an appeal against a conviction for money laundering, corruption and membership of a criminal group, as part of a sweeping anti-corruption investigation that has claimed dozens of Brazil’s political and business elite, ex-president Lula among them.
Dirceu was arrested as part of the so-called Operation Car Wash investigation in 2015 and convicted in May 2016, but was allowed to remain under house arrest until last month while he mounted another appeal. His defense has argued that he should be released from prison until all his legal options are exhausted.
Three of the five judges on a Supreme Court panel voted in favor of temporarily freeing Dirceu, with one absent and the other asking for more time to deliberate.
Since the court’s recess starts this week, the defense team pushed for a temporary release.
Dirceu’s colorful career included a stint in exile in Cuba, where he received military training and underwent plastic surgery to hide his identity when he returned to Brazil.
He became a powerful figure in national politics after the fall of the military dictatorship.
Dirceu had been found guilty in a previous scandal that took place in the early days of Lula’s presidency, in which public funds were used to buy votes in congress.