Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva walked out of a Curitiba prison Friday, less than a day after the Supreme Court ruled that a person can be imprisoned only after all the appeals have been exhausted.
Hundreds of supporters were gathered outside the federal police building in southern city of Curitiba, hoping to catch a glimpse of the popular, 74-year-old politician who is appealing his conviction of corruption and money laundering in connection with the purchase of a beachfront apartment in Sao Paulo state.
A stage was set up for him to address the crowd.
Da Silva, who is universally known as Lula, tweeted “Lula Free” with a video of himself working out and lifting weights in a gym inside the prison, where he has been detained since April 2018. Still, he could find himself back in prison if his appeals don’t go his way.
It is not yet clear what political role Da Silva will seek to occupy now that he is free. The former leader of the leftist Workers’ Party, better known in Brazil by its Portuguese acronym PT, remains a popular figure on the left, whose politicians and voters have ceaselessly called for his release.
Political analysts believe Da Silva could rally the opposition, which has been demoralized by the corruption scandals, impeachment of Da Silva’s hand-picked successor, Da Silva’s imprisonment and, more recently, a clobbering in the 2018 general elections.
Aside from his promise to root out corruption and curb violence, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro ran a strong campaign on anti-Workers Party sentiment. He won the election with 55% of the vote and was sworn in on January 1.
Da Silva, who governed from 2003 to 2010, had been favored to win the 2018 presidential election, but his conviction eventually prohibited him from running.
The former president has said that when free, he would travel around the country rallying opposition. Political analysts say he might not immediately enter into frontal opposition with Bolsonaro, seeking instead to influence the next presidential election in 2022.