16:44 GMT +315 November 2019
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    A woman holds up a sign that reads in Portuguese Freedom for Lula, referring to former jailed president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, during a protest against Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro to demand an investigation into the 2018 murder of city councilwoman Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

    Brazil Court Issues Ruling That Could Free Ex-President Lula da Silva

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    Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , who was in office from 2003 to 2010, was found guilty in 2017 of receiving a luxury three-story beachfront apartment from Brazilian construction company OAS in exchange for assisting OAS in getting beneficial contracts from Petrobras.

    On Thursday, Brazil's Supreme Court voted 6-5 to overturn a ruling requiring convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal, AFP reported. The ruling could allegedly pave the way for the former Brazilian president to be freed. In addition, the court ruling also reportedly means that some 5,000 convicts could also be released from prison.

    Meanwhile, the former Brazilian president's defence team is seeking the "immediate release" of Lula da Silva, AFP said.

    Lula da Silva was initially sentenced to 9.5 years in prison. After the court denied Lula's appeal in 2018, the former president's prison term was extended to 12 years and one month.

    In late April, a Brazilian court reduced Lula's prison term to eight years and 10 months, with the possibility of being moved to house arrest later this year.

    Petrobras has been involved in a spate of corruption scandals since 2014 when it was revealed that businesses paid more than $2 billion in bribes to sign contracts with the oil company and obtain projects which later increased in cost.

    The scandal triggered a large-scale inquiry and public discontent.

    In September, the Brazilian Prosecutor's Office brought new charges of corruption against Lula da Silva and his brother, Frei Chico, within a Petrobras-linked corruption case.

    In particular, according to the prosecution, from 2003 to 2015 Chico received payments amounting to over $274 million from the construction company Odebrecht, one of the Brazilian energy giant Petrobras' contractors. 

    These payments were offered to Lula da Silva in exchange for various benefits for Odebrecht, the prosecution said. Lula's defence, however, rejected the new accusations at the time. Notably, Thursday's decision by Brazil's Supreme Court to overturn the three-year-old ruling is reportedly a blow to local investigators in the so-called "Car Wash probe', supported by many ordinary Brazilians fed up with corrupt leaders, AFP said. That case has reportedly imprisoned dozens of local high-profile politicians and businessmen.


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