Lava Jato: A judge of the Supreme Court of Brazil: “Lula's prison was a setup to conquer the State” | International

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Luis Inácio Lula da Silva after being released from prison, in the municipality of São Bernardo do Campo, on November 9, 2019.Pedro Vilela (Getty Images)

Brazil takes another step in its process of rewriting the political and judicial history of the last decade, marked by the mega-operation against corruption Lava Jato, its effects and the spectacular ups and downs surrounding the case. A judge of the Supreme Court, Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, affirms that in a ruling released this Wednesday that the imprisonment of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was “a montage resulting from a power project of certain public agents in their objective of conquering the State by apparently legal means.” And he describes that decision, adopted by the highest court on the eve of the 2018 elections, as “one of the biggest judicial errors in the history of Brazil.” Lula, who always declared himself a victim of a judicial war, spent a year and a half in prison before staging an impressive political resurrection. He is enjoying his third term as president and, at 77 years old, does not rule out running for re-election.

The magistrate also orders the opening of a criminal investigation against the prosecutors who led the Lava Jato investigation, a gigantic bribery scheme that landed leading politicians and businessmen in jail, men considered untouchable until then. And the main Brazilian construction companies were ruined. The accusations against Lula and a good part of the rest of those convicted have been gradually annulled by judges in recent years.

And as so often in Brazil, reality once again imitates the best soap operas and Judge Sergio Moro, who imprisoned Lula, will now be investigated together with the Lava Jato prosecutors.

Toffoli's words immediately opened news and digital newspapers. The judge has put his conclusions on Lava Jato in black and white in a judicial decision that annuls all the evidence obtained in connection with a collaboration agreement signed at the height of the case by prosecutors with the construction company Odebrecht.

The changes in criteria of the Supreme Court, sometimes in the heat of popular outcry against the corrupt, are what first made it possible for Lula to be imprisoned and released. Later, the revelation of the collusion between prosecutors and Judge Sérgio Moro, thanks to messages leaked by a hacker, led to the annulment of the sentences against the current president and other defendants.

Toffoli is one of the eleven judges that make up Brazil's highest judicial court. He was appointed in 2009 at the suggestion of Lula after having been a lawyer for the Workers' Party (PT). He was one of the people who voted against the leftist politician's entry into prison in 2019 and his change of position the following year regarding the prison in the second instance, along with that of two other Supreme Court judges, opened the door for Lula to remain on freedom.

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The Workers' Party has defended for years the thesis that the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff by Congress and the imprisonment of Lula were a bloodless coup to remove the left from power.

The Supreme Court judge also affirms that “the setup” to put Lula in prison was “the real egg of the snake of the attacks on democracy.” And it is in another of the most discussed chapters of this complex plot, Lula's entry into prison in 2018 paved the way for the surprising victory of a mediocre extreme-right deputy, the retired military man Jair Bolsonaro. Last January, thousands of his followers tried to carry out a coup d'état by storming the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court in Brasilia. The judges have just disqualified Bolsonaro, who has not been able to run for eight years in the elections.

Other protagonists of this story have also seen their path radically change course. Former judge Moro, who was briefly a minister in the Bolsonaro Government, lost his robe for not being impartial with Lula and in the last elections he won a senator's seat.

Lula used to repeat, when he was in prison or still immersed in the various cases against him, that he was a victim of lawfareof a judicial war. That is the pillar on which he built his defense in court. He was so grateful to the lawyer who designed that successful strategy, Cristiano Zanin, that now - with the cases annulled and back in power - he has just been appointed judge of the Supreme Court.

The president will soon be able to appoint a second magistrate because one of the Supreme Court judges is retiring as she turns 75.

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