Thousands rally in Brazil to protest Lula’s first year in prison

Supporters of Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva take part in a demo marking one year of his arrest, at Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 07, 2019. – Lula da Silva is serving a 12-year imprisonment sentence on corruption charges. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

CURITIBA, Brazil (AFP) — Several thousand supporters of former Brazilian president Lula Inacio da Silva rallied on Sunday outside the prison where he has now been held for a year, as they demanded his release and chanted slogans against current leader Jair Bolsonaro.

In a letter read by Workers’ Party president Gleisi Hoffmann, Lula, who is 73, insisted that his conviction on corruption charges was “unjust,” designed expressly to prevent him from returning to the presidency.

Lula’s supporters had gathered early Sunday at a bus station two kilometers (1.2 miles) away before marching to the headquarters of the Federal Police, which also houses Lula’s prison.

They mixed chants of “Free Lula!” with shouts denouncing the extreme right-wing Bolsonaro.

Just a few meters from Lula’s cell, dozens of his most fervent supporters have carried on a vigil since the day of his arrest. They sing to him every morning at nine o’clock, and wish him a “Buenos noches” every evening at 7pm.

Organizers said the event Sunday drew 10,000 people, though the military police put the total at 3,000 to 5,000.

Similar rallies in other cities, including Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, as well as in some other countries, were called to protest the continuing imprisonment of Lula, the popular patriarch of the Brazilian left, who is serving a 12-year sentence — and potentially faces 12 more years if additional charges are confirmed.

The former president (2003-2010) was convicted of corruption and money laundering for his role in the Petrobras scandal involving massive pilfering from the state oil company.

© Agence France-Presse