BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s jailed former leftist president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, could gain partial freedom within five months following a court decision on Tuesday to reduce his sentence in one of two corruption convictions.
The popular politician began serving a 12-year prison sentence a year ago on a corruption and money-laundering conviction for accepting a luxury beachside apartment as a bribe from an engineering company in the “Carwash” graft scandal.
The Superior Court of Justice, the country’s second-highest court, reduced Lula’s sentence to eight years and 10 months, arguing that it was increased excessively by an appeals court last year.
With his time already served, Lula, who denies any wrongdoing, could gain the right by September to finish his term with his days free from jail, although he would still have to spend his nights in a prison cell.
That partial release would depend on an appeals court decision on his second conviction for corruption and money laundering for receiving bribes by two construction and engineering firms by way of funding improvements in a country house he and his family used.
If the appeals court upholds that conviction and a second 12-year, 11-month sentence without considering Tuesday’s decision, the 73-year-old Lula would find his hopes for a partial release dashed.
Brazil’s first working-class president has been indicted in six other corruption cases.
Lula governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, introducing social programs that lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty at a time when Latin America’s largest economy was enjoying expansion driven by a global commodities boom.
He left office with record popularity, but his reputation and that of his Workers Party were damaged by corruption scandals and the impeachment of his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff.
Popular revulsion over those scandals helped fuel support for President Jair Bolsonaro’s election campaign last year.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney)