Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been given an ultimatum to turn himself in to the authorities within 24 hours to start serving a 12-year prison sentence on charges of accepting bribes.
A federal judge, Sérgio Moro, ordered Lula on Thursday to “present himself voluntarily” to police in the southern city of Curitiba by 5:00 pm (2000 GMT) Friday.
The judge said that Lula should not be handcuffed and would have a special cell outside of the general prison population in consideration of the “dignity of the office he [previously] held.”
The judge issued the ultimatum a day after the Supreme Court ruled against Lula’s plea to remain free while he appealed against his conviction.
He was convicted last year for taking $1.2 million in bribes from an engineering firm in return for help landing contracts with state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The former president says the corruption charges against him are politically motivated. His Workers’ Party also described the day of the Wednesday ruling as a “tragic day for democracy and Brazil.”
If Lula is jailed, he will not be able to run for president another time, as he currently wishes to.
Lula’s party has remained defiant, saying he “remains our candidate.”
“If he is jailed, we will consider him a political prisoner and we will be by his side,” said the president of the Workers’ Party, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann.
Under Brazilian electoral law, a presidential candidate is forbidden from running for office for eight years after being found guilty of a crime, though some exemptions have been made in the past.
The ultimate decision about Lula, however, would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate.
He led Brazil in two four-year terms as president from 2003 to January 2011 and left office with an approval rating higher than 80 percent.
While he has a lead in opinion polls for the October presidential election, the former president likely would not be allowed to run.
According to opinion polls, other candidates, Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva, would gain the most from Lula not running in October.
This would also clear an opening for far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is often compared to US President Donald Trump.